An agricultural official predicts the drought will change the market for meat and other commodities in Utah significantly in the coming months.
Jared Christensen, the director of marketing for the Department of Agriculture, said the lack of moisture means feed on the local ranges in Utah will evaporate more quickly this year, forcing ranchers to sell off cattle and sheep earlier than normal, resulting in higher prices.
Randy Parker, president of the Utah Farm Bureau, said the drought’s impact will be especially significant in rural areas of the Beehive State. He said Kane and Garfield counties especially depend on the economic contribution of the cattle industry.
He said direct sales total almost $7 million in those counties. Moisture, he said, is one issue cattlemen can’t plan for.
“We’re (using) genetics to deal with the harsh climate of the Utah landscape, but with the drought and fires, they have to sell them off,” Parker said of the cattle herd.
He said Utah’s cattle herd is already down to 1960 levels.
“All of those things that are skyrocketing in this heat wave and drought will have a huge repercussion on the industry (agriculture) and ultimately will flow out to the consumer,” Parker predicted.
The lack of moisture will hurt more than feed and the price of meat.
Christensen said the drought will also have a significant impact on wheat production for many Top of Utah dry farms.
“It was a tremendous year last year for dry farmers but it won’t be that way this year,” Christensen said. “I talked to a dry farmer in Box Elder County who said production and yield of wheat is off substantially this year.”