November 21, 2014

Drought has ripple effects

As the world’s population grows and economies expand, so does demand for food. Exports of Wisconsin’s agriculture products are increasing at record speed – a total value of $2.85 billion last year, but could that slow down as a result of the extreme dry conditions? DATCP Deputy Secretary Jeff Lyon says it depends on the product.

“It will be interesting to see what happens with exports, if we see a reduction in milk production statewide because of the heat and drought … that certainly could be an effect on our sales, our exports.”

Lyon says the first priority is to feed the livestock here in Wisconsin. As grazing land dries up and feed prices spike, farmers are forced into selling their livestock. That could lead to lower meat prices in the short term.

“I’ve heard anecdotally that livestock numbers, as far as people taking livestock to market, are up just because they are trying to cull their herds a little bit — beef cattle or maybe some dairy herd. So I think there’s probably going to be more meat on the market.”

The price of beef, pork, and poultry would likely increase eventually, due to supply and demand. Milk production will decrease almost immediately, increasing prices and leaving less supply for cheese producers.

Wisconsin’s agriculture industry has an annual $60 billion economic impact in the state.