Dust In The Wind: Dust Bowl Conditions Have Returned To Kansas, Oklahoma And North Texas

Dust BowlIn early 1978, a song entitled “Dust in the Wind” by a rock band known as Kansas shot up the Billboard charts.  When Kerry Livgren penned those now famous lyrics, he probably never imagined that Dust Bowl conditions would return to his home state just a few short decades later.  Sadly, that is precisely what is happening.  When American explorers first traveled through north Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, they referred to it as “the Great American Desert” and they doubted that anyone would ever be able to farm it.  But as history has shown, when that area gets plenty of precipitation the farming is actually quite good.  Unfortunately, the region is now in the midst of a devastating multi-year drought which never seems to end.  Right now, 56 percent of Texas, 64 percent of Oklahoma and 80 percent of Kansas are experiencing “severe drought”, and the long range forecast for this upcoming summer is not good.  In fact, some areas in the region are already drier than they were during the worst times of the 1930s.  And the relentless high winds that are plaguing that area of the country are kicking up some hellacious dust storms.  For example, some parts of Kansas experienced a two day dust storm last month.  And Lubbock, Texas was hit be a three day dust storm last month.  We are witnessing things that we have not seen since the depths of the Dust Bowl days, and unless the region starts getting a serious amount of rain, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get any better.

Over the past two months, very high winds and bone dry conditions have made the lives of ordinary farmers in the state of Kansas extraordinarily difficult.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent article posted on Agriculture.com

The dust has settled, but for how long no one can be sure. At any moment, the winds may blow, moving the topsoil — soil that took Mother Nature generations to craft — even farther from its origin.

One farmer reckons that precious topsoil, native to his farm in Kearny County, Kansas, now sits in a field at least 200 miles away, blown there by the relentless winds of March and April 2014.

Affecting counties in western Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and eastern Colorado, it was reminiscent of what folks in the same region faced 80 years ago.

“There were several days we couldn’t see 100 yards in front of us,” says Tom Hauser, a farmer near Ulysses, Kansas. “We didn’t know where the dust was coming from. It was moving in here from somewhere else, just like it did back in the 1930s.

When heavy winds blow day after day but there is no rain, it creates ideal conditions for dust storms.  According to the same article that I just mentioned, the average wind speed in the little community of Syracuse, Kansas has been over 50 miles an hour so far this year…

Since the beginning of 2014, the average maximum daily wind speed in Syracuse, Kansas, is 50.6 miles per hour, according to the Kansas State University Weather Data Library. In that same time, Syracuse has received just 1 inch of total precipitation.

That is a recipe for disaster.

“I’ve had to chisel more ground this year than the last 20 years put together,” says Gary Millershaski, who farms near Lakin in Kearny County. Chiseling the ground roughs it up, and helps prevent soil from blowing – at least for a little while.

I couldn’t imagine living somewhere with such high winds day after day.

But this is what farmers in the High Plains have to deal with on a constant basis.

And needless to say, when things are this dry those kinds of winds can kick up some immense dust storms.  In fact, a dust storm in late April was so large that it covered most of the region…

Monday’s dust storm was so large it covered most of Kansas, western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and eastern Colorado, said weather service meteorologist Jeff Hutton in Dodge City. Tuesday’s dust cloud was more localized, only found in some parts of Kansas.

“That is what happens when you get drought, a lack of vegetation and you have wind,” Hutton said. “I mean, that is just the nature of the High Plains. And then that dirt that was lofted is eventually carried into eastern Kansas.”

When one of these dust storms strikes, you want to get indoors and stay there.  It isn’t even safe to be driving.  When you can’t even see five feet in front of you, the odds of getting into a fatal accident rise exponentially.  Just check out what happened earlier this year near the little town of Liberal, Kansas

At least 12 vehicles were involved in an pileup accident near Liberal, Kansas.

The accident happened around 1:40 p.m., nine miles southwest of Liberal. It appears that blowing dust limited visibility so severely that it cause vehicles to not see each other until it was too late and they collided. One report states that visibility was less than five feet.

According to Chief Anthony Adams of the Tyrone Fire Department in Oklahoma, six of the vehicles involved were cars and trucks, the other six were tractor trailers.

As bad as things are in Kansas right now, the truth is that things are probably even worse down in Texas.  Amarillo has had 10 dust storms so far this year, and Lubbock has already had 15 days of dust storms in 2014…

The number of dust storms seems to rise with the length of the drought. Amarillo has had 10 this year; it had none in 2010. The city is about 10 percent drier now than the 42 months that ended April 30, 1936, and drier than the state’s record drought in the 1950s.

Lubbock already has seen 15 days with dust storms this year, the National Weather Service said.

And remember, we haven’t even gotten to the summer months yet.

As conditions get even worse in the heartland of America, it is going to end up deeply affecting all of us.  The farmers and ranchers that live there provide a tremendous amount of food for the rest of the country, and food prices are already starting to rise at an alarming pace.

So what is going to happen if this drought extends for several more years or even longer?

Some experts such as paleoclimatologist Edward Cook have suggested that we could be in the midst of a “megadrought” that could last for decades or even centuries.

Many of those that were convinced that we could never see a return of the Dust Bowl days are now being forced to reevaluate their beliefs.  According to the National Weather Service, parts of Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma are already drier than they were in the 1930s.  The following is an excerpt from a recent National Geographic article entitled “Parched: A New Dust Bowl Forms in the Heartland“…

Four years into a mean, hot drought that shows no sign of relenting, a new Dust Bowl is indeed engulfing the same region that was the geographic heart of the original. The undulating frontier where Kansas, Colorado, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma converge is as dry as toast. The National Weather Service, measuring rain over 42 months, reports that parts of all five states have had less rain than what fell during a similar period in the 1930s.

It is hard to put into words how incredibly serious this all is.

A few years ago, when I wrote articles with titles such as “20 Signs That Dust Bowl Conditions Will Soon Return To The Heartland Of America“, a lot of people laughed.

Not that many people are laughing now.

The truth is that we are now in the midst of the worst drought crisis since the days of the Great Depression.

Fortunately, over the past week or so there has been some rain in some of the hardest hit areas.  Let us hope that this is a sign of better things to come.

Because if this drought does not come to an end, it is going to become much, much more expensive for Americans to feed their families.

And considering the fact that 49 million Americans are already facing food insecurity, that is a threat that should not be taken lightly.

The Family Farm Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America

An entire way of life is rapidly dying right in front of our eyes.  The family farm is being systematically wiped out of existence in America, and big agribusiness and the federal government both have blood all over their hands.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the United States has fallen from about 6.8 million in 1935 to only about 2 million today.  That doesn’t mean that there is less farming going on.  U.S. farms are producing more than ever.  But what it does mean is that farming is increasingly becoming dominated by the big boys.  The rules of the game have been tilted in favor of big agribusiness so dramatically that most small farmers find that they simply cannot compete anymore.  Back in 1900, about 39 percent of the U.S. population worked on farms.  At this point, only about 2 percent of all Americans now live on farms.  Big agribusiness, the food processing conglomerates, and big seed companies such as Monsanto completely dominate the industry.  Unless something dramatic is done, the family farm is going to continue to be wiped out of existence.  Unfortunately, it does not look like things are going to turn around any time soon.

The way that the farming industry is structured today, it is simply not economically feasible to operate a small family farm.  According to Farm Aid, every week approximately 330 farmers leave their land for good.

Many old timers are trying to hang on for as long as they can.  A very large percentage of family farmers are in their fifties, sixties or seventies at this point.  Today, only about 6 percent of all farmers are under the age of 35.

Most young people these days are not too eager to choose farming as a career.  A lot of young adults that grew up on family farms have decided that investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a business that requires you to work 12 hours or more per day most of the year for very meager wages is simply not worth it.

In recent years, many family farmers have been forced to find second jobs in order to support their families.  Many farm families are constantly on the verge of financial ruin.  It is a really tough life for many of them.

Sadly, less than 25 percent of all farms in America bring in gross revenues in excess of $50,000.  The following comes from the EPA website….

It has been estimated that living expenses for the average farm family exceed $47,000 per year. Clearly, many farms that meet the U.S. Census’ definition would not produce sufficient income to meet farm family living expenses. In fact, fewer than 1 in 4 of the farms in this country produce gross revenues in excess of $50,000.

On top of everything else, the federal government and many state governments just keep endlessly piling more rules and regulations on to the backs of farmers.

Big agribusiness has the resources to deal with all of these regulations fairly well, but most family farms do not.

With each passing year, the farming industry becomes even more centralized.  If current trends continue, big agribusiness will eventually control nearly all of it.  The following is from the EPA website….

By 1997, a mere 46,000 of the two million farms in this country accounted for 50% of sales of agricultural products (USDA, 1997 Census of Agriculture data). That number was down from almost 62,000 in 1992.

In certain industries the amount of consolidation has been absolutely stunning.  For example, between 1970 and today the United States has lost 88 percent of its dairy farms.

Another factor that is shaping the farming business is the incredible power that the giant food processing conglomerates have accumulated.

Today, there are 10 corporations that control most of the things that Americans eat and drink on a daily basis.  If you doubt this, just check out this chart.

The giant food processing conglomerates have a massive amount of influence over how food is grown in the United States today.  Small farmers that try to go against the tide often have a very rough go of it.

That is also true when it comes to seeds.

For example, approximately 80 percent of all corn grown in the United States is grown using seeds that have been genetically modified by Monsanto.

If you want to try to defy companies such as Monsanto, you are playing a very dangerous game.  The predatory business practices of Monsanto have been well documented.  Monsanto has taken countless numbers of farmers to court, and they are absolutely ruthless.

Plus, it certainly does not help that there is a constant revolving door between Monsanto and federal government agencies.  If you doubt this, just check out the chart about Monsanto on this page.

Amazingly, in spite of all this there are still some small farmers that are able to overcome all of these obstacles and run successful businesses.

But that is where the federal government comes in.

In recent years, the federal government has become absolutely obsessed with going after small farmers.

For example, a recent Food Freedom News article detailed what the feds have been doing to Randy and Karen Sowers.  They were keeping their cash deposits under $10,000 so that they would not have to fill out a bunch of paperwork, and the federal government came down on them like a hurricane….

“Structuring,” explains Overlawyered.com, “is the federal criminal offense of splitting up bank deposits so as to keep them under a threshold such as $10,000 above which banks have to report transactions to the government.”

While being questioned, the Sowers were finally presented with a seizure order and advised that the feds had already emptied their bank account of $70,000.  The Dept. of Justice has since sued to keep $63,000 of the Sowers’ money, though they committed no crime other than maintaining their privacy.

Without funds, they will be unable to make purchases for the spring planting.

When a similar action was taken against Taylor’s Produce Stand last year, the feds seized $90,000, dropped the charges, and kept $45,000 of Taylor’s money.

Knowing that most farms operate on a very thin margin, such abuse of power wipes out a family’s income, and for a bonus, the feds enhance the monopoly power of Monsanto, Big Dairy and their supply chain.

At many other small farms across America, the feds have conducted military-style raids at the crack of dawn over the smallest infractions.

Some examples of this were detailed in a documentary entitled “Farmaggedon“.  The following is a short trailer for that film….

The sad truth is that the federal government has been using your tax money to go after small farmers in absolutely vicious ways.

For example, the feds raided one Amish farm at 5 AM one morning.

So what was the big crime that the feds were so concerned about?

Well, the Amish farm was selling raw milk.

Oh the horror!

The feds seem content to leave big agribusiness pretty much alone, but they are constantly going after small farms in hundreds of different ways.

Did you know that the Department of Labor is instituting new regulations that will ban children from doing many kinds of farm chores?

Just another way to kill off the family farm in America.

America is changing, and not for the better.

Just like the middle class, the family farm is heading for extinction.

Eventually, the big corporations and the federal government will have near total control over food production in America.

So what do you think about all of this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….