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US Farmers Struggle With Drought

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from | A drought across much of the United States is forcing farmers to make difficult decisions. Damage to corn and soybeans is already severe in the hardest-hit areas. Alan Bowers Jr. is a farmer in the state of Illinois in the Midwest. He explains the situation this way: "You get up in the morning, and you think it might be another thirteen months before we get a paycheck. The corn and soybean crop is our paycheck." The corn on his farm is so dry, the stalks break apart easily. The corn is unusable. So in the middle of July, Alan Bowers decided to cut down his crop to avoid a total loss. He says it can only be used to feed animals.Alan Bowers Jr. and his wife, Lori, are hoping for a small insurance settlement to help them pay their bills until next year.Lori Bowers says: "People don't realize we have no boss and we have nobody to help us. And it's tough. You have to work together. You have to work with a husband and a wife and family, and together try to work through it."The Bowers could also lose their soybeans to the record high temperatures and lack of rain in the worst drought in more than 50 years. And Alan Bowers says the farm itself may not survive if next year is anything like this. The farm has been in his family for four generations. The drought is affecting the Mississippi River, the nation's longest and most economically important waterway. Last year, heavy rains flooded parts of the Mississippi. This year, the level is so low, shipwrecks normally hidden underwater can be clearly seen. Jasen Brown is a hydraulic engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers. He says the low water hurts farmers who send crops down the river. Sixty percent of all grain exported from the United States travels on barges along the Mississippi. But he adds that other goods, like chemicals and coal, need to be transported down the Mississippi as well.An Army Corps of Engineers survey ship called the MV Pathfinder looks for places along the river that are not deep enough for traffic. Crews then either dredge the sites to make them deeper or mark them with warning buoys. The ship's captain says companies have to lighten loads of their barges when the water level is low. To read, listen and learn English, go to You can also find our captioned videos at the VOA Learning English channel on YouTube. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 31Jul2012)
Length: 04:01


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