Indiana farmers unload livestock as drought continues

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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