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Indiana farmers unload livestock as drought continues

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The ongoing drought is taking its toll on Indiana livestock farmers as they liquidate their inventories.

Pig sales are almost double what they were last year in July and have even caused backups in some processing centers trying to handle the flood of farmers unloading their livestock, said Michael Platt, executive director of the Indiana Pork Producers, during a news conference Monday at the Indiana Farm Bureau.

Many pig farmers are deciding it's better to save on the feed-corn and sell now, even though prices are being deflated by the spike in pork hitting the market, he said.

"There are places around the state where there is actually a backup in the processing because there are so many sows going to market," Platt said. "There are some tough decisions being made right now."

Cattle sales also are up drastically, which could cause an increase in beef prices toward the end of the year after farmers have liquidated their stock, said Joe Moore, executive vice president of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association.

The news came as state officials continued their calls Monday for Indiana residents to conserve as much water as possible. A new map of drought-stricken areas is set for release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday.

Already 50 counties are declared natural disaster areas and, along with their neighboring 24 counties, qualify for low-interest relief loans from the federal government. That number of counties is expected to increase Thursday.

The drought is expected to continue possibly into October. And although the state could impose mandatory restrictions on water use if the drought worsens, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said that's unlikely.

Skillman said Monday that she returned from a meeting of the nation's lieutenant governors where they concluded Indiana is at the "epicenter" of the drought. She also serves as the state's agriculture secretary.

"Many states are grappling with the drought, but there is overall acknowledgement that Indiana is the epicenter of the drought," she said, adding that agriculture accounts for $26 billion of the state's gross domestic product and 17 percent of its workforce.

Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock tried to find a silver lining to the state's ongoing woes: "Farmers are always optimistic. Thinking next year will be a better year is ingrained in our genetic code."

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  • re: Rich Farmers
    Owning a lot of land does not make you 'rich'. Your profits are what you make when selling your goods after your expenses. You might own over a 1M in land, but that doesn't make you a millionaire today or else you would no longer be farming. It's like taking a $1M mortage on a house and saying "I'm a millionaire... I own a $1M house!" Uh, no.
  • Very True
    True - I probably wont' be able to afford food because most of it will be consumed by corn ethanol plants, but rich farmers will certain be able to afford food - especially ones that get big fat crop insurance claims, the premium for which our government pays 60 percent or so of.
  • Many Rich Farmers
    There are many rich farmers (all or most). You own 300 acres at 9K an acre that's 2.7M dollars. That ain't rich. The same farm throws of over $60K of cash rent at today's market rent. That's just for 300 acres. We have farmers around here that have thousands of acres. Many of them don't work or just work someplace for the insurance. I agree with the comments about the new trucks too. Why does every farmer drive a brand new expensive truck
  • Wealthy Farms - oxymoron
    Coming from a farming family, I don't personally know any farms that are well off. They might exist, but I haven't met any in my area of the state.
  • Rich Farmers
    Why do you think farmers are rich? Most of Indiana's farmers aren't making much on their crops. Their only wealth is in land, that they most likely inherited from their fathers. It's in everyone's interest to keep family farms afloat. You may just find out why farmers are important to everyone when the corn crop comes in this fall. Hope you can afford to buy food.
    • Farmers Don't Need Help
      These rich farmers don't need help. What other business exists where the government bails you out no matter how dumb you are? Subsidized loans, direct subsidies, tax breaks, free programs, loan guarantees, phony demand for their products (i.e. corn ethanol). Welfare queens, plain and simple and what's unbelievable is that most of these farmers are millionaires driving brand new 60K trucks and working 4 months of the year. The taxpayer has made them wealthy. I have no sympathy whatsoever. Where is the relief for the tens of thousands that lost manufacturing jobs over the last decade?

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