Even after Hurricane Isaac, some Midwest farmers mired in drought

Sep 7, 2012

Heavy rains from Hurricane Isaac provided relief to some – but not all – farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken Midwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report, which came out on Thursday.

Isaac brought between two and six inches of rain to some of the states hardest hit by the drought, including Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. That’s rain that Jessica Oliphant, who owns an 86-cow dairy in Southwest Missouri, has been waiting for all summer.

“We were very relieved,” she said. “We’ve been praying for it for so long and I felt bad for Louisiana being hit so hard by it. But I was really glad it came over this way and we got some of the afterthought of it and got a little bit of rain.“

Yet, Oliphant says it will still take a lot more rain than the 2.5 inches Isaac brought to keep her dairy in business. She’s not alone. Some parts of the Midwest like Iowa and Nebraska missed out on Isaac’s rains entirely. Both states have seen an increase in their total drought areas. Parts of Minnesota that were very wet a few months ago have also dried up.

“No rain from that system,” said Alan Matzner, who started a small livestock operation in Minnesota with his wife this year. “We got a quarter of an inch of rain from some showers but nothing huge.” 

At least 40 percent of the pasture and rangeland in every Plains and Midwestern state is still rated very poor to poor, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey.

“That real core drought area across the Plains and Upper Midwest continues to get worse even while we saw some improvement along the southeastern edge of the drought area,” he said.

Farmers looking for relief may be waiting a while. Forecasters predict the drought could persist for months in parts of the Rockies, California and the central and southern Plains.