Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 10:54 am
America's heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years.
Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there's new crop of farmers to thank for it.
Recent years of drought have led to a huge reduction in Oklahoma’s cattle population and record high prices. This year is no different.
Less rain means less grazing, a weaker wheat harvest, higher prices for grain, and on and on the costs go. But, the drought may also make it more difficult for Oklahoma farmers to lend a hand in the state’s fight against hunger.
KOSU’s Quinton Chandler reports less rain may mean fewer livestock donations to the Regional Food Bank.
Imagine if a gallon of milk cost $3 in your town, but 100 miles away it cost $100, or even $200.
Something similar is happening right now in California with water that farmers use to irrigate their crops. Some farmers are paying 50 or even 100 times more for that water than others who live just an hour's drive away.
The situation is provoking debate about whether water in California should move more freely, so that it can be sold to the highest bidder.
Four years of extreme drought has withered the agricultural economies of southern Great Plains states like Oklahoma, where farmers are bracing for one of the worst wheat crops in state history.
And Oklahoma’s withered wheat harvest could have national consequences.
Wayne Schmedt adjusts his faded blue cap and crouches down in a wind-whipped field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma. His brother and business partner, Fred, grins and waits. The jokes start before the dusty rain gauge is pulled from the cracked dirt.
Last week, StateImpact hosted a public forum on how climate change affects Oklahoma. A panel of experts took audience questions on water and agriculture, and as Joe Wertz reports, if this discussion is any guide, Oklahomans are curious, frustrated and concerned about climate change.
On Wednesday, April 30th, KOSU in collaboration with State Impact Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange held a discussion at Picasso's cafe in the Paseo District.
State Impact's Joe Wertz and Logan Layden led the discussion with Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Clay Pope and David Engle, Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center at Oklahoma State University. The packed crowd discussed climate change and protecting the state's valuable land and water.