OMAHA, Neb. -- It's hard to tell what frustrates Todd Eggerling more -- the weather or Congress.
Searing temperatures and drought scorched Eggerling's land in southeast Nebraska, leaving little grass to feed his 100 cattle.
Then Congress left for a five-week break without agreeing on aid to help ranchers through one of the worst droughts in the nation's history.
That means it will be September before Eggerling and other ranchers can even hope for disaster aid legislation that includes cash to buy feed until they would normally send their cattle to feedlots or slaughter in the fall or winter.
For some, it's already too late.
Out of grass and out of cash, they've sold their animals.
For others, time is rapidly running out as they try to hold on. Their decisions will affect the price and supply of meat for months, perhaps years, to come.
"I'd like to see every one of the senators and congressmen go out into one of these widespread, drought-stricken areas and spend a day," said Eggerling, 44, of Martell, Neb. "Walk around and see the effects of what's going on. Look at the local economies and see what's going to happen to them. Then they can go back to Washington with a real perspective and say, 'Hey; we need to do something.'"
Most farmers are having a hard year with drought and unusually warm temperatures in the middle of the country burning up everything from corn to cabbage. But ranchers are in a
Private companies won't insure grazing land because it's too hard to predict losses, and ranchers say pilot programs tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are too expensive and pay out little when there's a loss, Nebraska Farm Service Agency director Dan Steinkruger said.
The White House announced last week that the federal government will buy up to $170 million worth of pork and other meat for food assistance programs in an effort to help drought-stricken farmers.
The Defense Department also was expected to encourage its vendors to speed up meat purchases in an effort to prop up prices with a glut on the market expected in the next few months.
Feed prices soared amid the drought, and livestock farmers have been selling off animals for months as they run out of money. The meat is expected to hit grocery stores this fall, with prices dropping briefly and then rising early next year.
The House approved $383 million in disaster relief earlier this month, but Congress went home before the Senate acted on the bill.
The Senate had previously passed a disaster aid package as part of a five-year farm bill, but GOP leaders in the House refused to bring that to a vote because many Republicans object to the nearly $80 billion included for the food stamp program.