Latest News by Industry
Extreme weather can hit farmers hard. Those with smaller farming operations often pay the price
Following historic rainfall and flooding earlier this summer, farmers in Graves County, Kentucky sustained field damage and crop loss
MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — Justin Ralph estimates he's made about 200 trips delivering grain from the fields he farms with his brother and uncle this year. They're accustomed to using their four semi-trucks to take the harvest from a total of about 800 acres each of corn, soybeans and wheat to market.
What they're not used to are the distances they've had to drive the past couple years, a consequence of bad weather that's only expected to increase in their area as a result of climate change. They used to take advantage of a grain elevator in Mayfield, Kentucky — a massive facility that bought and stored millions of bushels of grain from farmers. But it was destroyed in the 2021 tornado outbreak that killed dozens of people and leveled entire parts of the town, and the company that ran it shut down. Now, instead of driving ten minutes, they sometimes travel an hour or more.
“The swings in the weather events that we have ... that’s kind of scary,” he said, especially for those with smaller farms. “If you’ve got a larger farm operation, your acreage is spread out over a larger area, so the risks are probably minimized more because they’re spread out more.”
Farmers and experts echo Ralph and say that larger farms have more ways to manage risk, but smaller to midsize farmers struggle when extreme weather hits. Human-caused climate change is only anticipated to amplify the number and intensity of those extreme events, from flash droughts to increased rainfall. And as the planet warms, scientists say the country will see more tornado- and hail-spawning storms and that those deadly events will strike more frequently in populous mid-Southern states a big issue for everyone living in those areas and especially for those trying to hold onto small family farms.