This summer's drought has hit more than half the states in the country. Crops are suffering, but farmers might not be. Most farmers have crop insurance.
U.S. taxpayers spend about $7 billion a year on crop insurance. It's our largest farm subsidy.
And this subsidy goes in part to farmers — who will tell you themselves they aren't so sure about the whole idea. "I have an aversion to it," says Jim Traub, a corn and bean farmer in Fairbury, Illinois. "But you're not going to turn it down."
In the high-profile race for U.S. Senate in Missouri, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill is seizing on this year’s drought to win support among rural voters.
Speaking at the historic Soulard Farmers Market, Senator McCaskill laid in to her opponent in the November election—Republican Congressman Todd Akin—for his opposition the Senate version of the federal farm bill, which includes disaster assistance for farmers reeling from this year’s record drought.
Were it not for Republicans like Todd Akin, McCaskill says that relief would be on its way to farmers and ranchers.
Dairy cows feed at Heins Family Farm near Higginsville, Mo. Fans and misters keep the barns cool during this summer's record temperatures.
Credit Courtesy of the University of Missouri
The new smartphone app Thermal Aid can help farmers detect the threat of heat stress in cows.
Credit Scott Pham for NPR
Herd manager Chris Heins greets a calf at his dairy farm near Higginsville, Mo. It will be about two years before a calf like this one is ready to be milked, so keeping them comfortable and healthy is a top concern.
When it's hot and humid, you probably don't want to move much and aren't very hungry. The same goes for cows; but when they don't eat, farmers lose money.
Researchers at the University of Missouri think they can help avoid those losses. They've produced a new mobile app that can detect the threat of heat stress in cows using nothing more than a smartphone.
Corn plants dry in a drought-stricken farm field on July 17 near Fritchton, Ind. The corn and soybean belt in the middle of the nation is experiencing one of the worst droughts in more than five decades.
Stop by most any unirrigated farm across the lower Midwest and you'll see crops in distress. Midwestern corn and soybean farmers are taking a beating during the recent drought, but it's not likely to drive many out of business.
Most of those farmers carry terrific insurance, and the worse the drought becomes, the more individual farmers will be paid for their lost crops. The federal government picks up most of the cost of the crop insurance program, and this year that bill is going to be a whopper.