Rain provides some drought relief but struggle continues for farmers, ranchers




Posted on June 27, 2014 at 5:36 PM

KOPPERL, Texas -– The sky opened up and North Texas got some much-needed rain this week, but it’s far from the end to the drought that’s dragging on.

The worries are only mounting for some ranchers and farmers.

“The rebuilding process is very slow,” said Bud Hardin of Whiskey Cannon Ranch in Kopperl.

The 31-year-old is toughing it out. Farming is in his blood.

“I guess once you get it, you just don't get out of it,” he said. Despite his love for herding, he still struggles.

In recent years, the U.S. cattle population has shrunk to its smallest size in six decades.

“It is kind of frustrating,” Hardin said.

“Frustrating” because four years ago, he had a herd of 12,000 grazing outside. He only has 250 cattle now.

“Just being able to work cows is costing more money than it ever has,” he said.

Blame Mother Nature. Without steady rain, the cost of corn is climbing. That’s what feeds the cattle. Land is also drying up, but Hardin’s optimism is not.

“It was a blessing,” he said of this week’s storms.

While the heavy rain solved some problems, like filling the tanks up, it created others.

“The farm road getting out was under water by about four foot,” he explained. “I've got a little over a mile of fence that's washed out.”

The wild weather is taking a toll on consumers, too. U.S. ground beef prices are up about 76 percent since 2009. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said fresh fruit prices will rise about six percent this year.

“We have decent ground moisture right now, but with the summer coming on, by no means was the drought broken,” Hardin said.

E-mail jdoren@wfaa.com