Drought hits hay crop - and other farmers share the pain

Glen LeDuc takes a look at his dying hay in Edwardsville, Ill. The lack of rain is driving the price of his crop up, which in turn is raising the prices for feed for dairy farmers. CBS

(CBS News) EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - The drought affecting much of the central U.S. is affecitng all kind of crops. And that means higher prices at the grocery store, whether the dwindling crops were bound for people or for other farms, where they're needed as animal feed. CBS News visited a an Illinois hay farmer who's seen his crop cut in half.

Glen LeDuc has supported his family as a commercial hay farmer in Edwardsville since 1983. This year is the toughest one yet.

"I needed rain in April and May and June to get that crop going," LeDuc said.

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His rain totals sure don't add up to much. He didn't get that much-needed rain in July either.

His 200-acre farm used to produce 16,000 pounds of hay. This year, he's set to harvest only 8,000 pounds.

"We can only pay half the bills, and the bills are usually a lot," LedDc said. "It adds up. It takes fertilizer and fuel and equipment repairs."

In some states, hay prices are up as much as 50 percent. LeDuc only raised his prices 10 percent to absorb the cost for loyal customers, including dairy farmer Roger Wilkening just down the road.

"It's making it awful expensive to give the cows what they need," Wilkening admitted.

Wilkening needs hay to feed his 80 dairy cows. He had to take out a loan to afford the hay. At this point, he can't charge more for his milk. He said his profit is going down - or completely disappearing.

Profits are drying up across these plains. LeDuc said he lost about 50 to 60 acres of ground that he re-seeded due to the drought.

"That's a big loss," he said. From an income perspective he said simply "ouch."

LeDuc worries the drought is already killing his hay seeds for the next harvest. At this point, he just hopes to break even.

  • Seth Doane

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