The grass is brown and dry, the soil is cracked and even the heartiest trees on our small family farm are struggling to hold their own. It is a scene being played across much of the United States and especially in Missouri, where our farmers and ranchers are struggling to get by. Not only have I seen the devastation the drought has caused our family farm, but I have heard from so many folks out there who were faring much worse, with their livelihoods on the line.
The economic impact on our farm communities isn't known just yet, but it is safe to say it is going to be devastating. Because of the role agriculture plays in our national economy, the impacts of this year's drought are going to be felt in our supermarkets, in our malls and at the gas pump.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 90 percent of Missouri is experiencing an extreme drought and that percentage is expected to rise as the heat and lack of rain continues. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that nearly half the nation's corn crop was rated poor to very poor.
As I saw conditions worsen, I embarked on a series of initiatives to try and assist our hard-working farmers and ranchers. In early July, as the drought began to really take hold, I joined the Missouri delegation in asking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to approve Missouri's request for a disaster declaration, a request that was subsequently approved by the USDA.
Just a few weeks ago, in an attempt to more directly assist the folks in all 25 counties of the 9th District, I began making information available on my official website to help those affected by the drought, including programs through USDA's Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service. My website can be found at http://luetkemeyer.house.gov. In addition to providing information about federal resources, the website also includes links to the U.S. Drought Monitor at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html and the State of Missouri drought site at http://mda.mo.gov/drought/.
Then, on August 2, I voted for legislation passed by the full House to reauthorize for one year the much-needed disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers that expired last September. While I would have preferred to have voted on a long-term farm bill, we were able to secure $383 million in temporary disaster aid, the cost of which was fully offset by cuts to other government programs. Unfortunately, the Senate adjourned for the remainder of the month without passing the bill and I am extremely frustrated by their failure. It is my hope we'll have a new farm bill this fall.
The urgency of the situation is reflected in the following statement from Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst: "During the last few weeks, I've visited with hog farmers who are facing losses and cattle farmers who will have a short calf crop next spring. Crop farmers across the state are faced with no crop at all because of this drought. And while we cannot control Mother Nature, we are encouraged with the steps that have been taken not only by our state government, most recently in the form of funding for emergency wells, but also temporary federal programs that will help Missouri's farmers and ranchers endure this devastating year. Ultimately, we need a long-term farm bill in place, so there is still much work to be done."
As this drought continues, I am committed to returning to Congress this fall and fighting for the passage of a five-year farm bill so that our farm families will have greater confidence as they struggle to deal with the impacts of this year's drought and the economic struggles so many of you are dealing with and which could become more difficult if the drought continues to impact our economy.
Like many of you, I am hoping and praying for rain, but until Mother Nature cooperates, we must all work together to ensure that the breadbasket of the world remains strong in a time of drought.