Inflation and Drought Costs to Hit Montana Consumers Next Year
We reached out to former Montana Congressional candidate Joe Dooling on Tuesday to talk about his ranching operation in the Helena valley and how inflation is affecting his operation and will affect consumers in the short and long term.
Dooling was transparent about the rapidly increasing expenses in his hay, barley, and cattle operations.
“When (consumers are) experiencing nine to ten percent inflation with that kind of scenario, it doubles for agriculture,” said Dooling. “I have never seen it so close and so tight. You really have to be on your toes because my fertilizer bill doubled. It went from in the $70,000 range to the $140,000 range just like that. Tractor tires? They've more than doubled. They went from $1,500 to $1,800 for a rear tractor tire to the north of $3,000. If you can get them. Equipment has gone up 40 percent. “For example, I ordered a swather in August last year and I didn't get it until June of this year.”
Dooling leases state and federal land for grazing his cattle and that has also been cut back due to the continuing drought in Montana.
"On the capital side we're coming out of a drought, and the Forest Service and the BLM both cut back the number," he said.." So if you had an allotment of 100 head they told you you can only bring 40 percent of that. So what that did was that put a lot of pressure on the private sector and so finding pasture was really hard to do for people. And so what a lot of people ended up doing was selling their pairs. A lot of them went down to Texas went all over it turns out they've got drought and now those cattle are just being sold."
Dooling had sobering statistics when it comes to the number of livestock remaining in Montana.
“The number I heard is we're in a 30 percent range in the number of cattle that we had two years ago,” he said. “When you called I was on a stock grower's phone call. We're going to have issues just because we just got so much fewer cattle in Montana. We’re around 100,000 head of more cattle sold last year through the rings in the year before, and that was all adult cows that are getting out of here. I don't know of any producers that are my friends that didn't sell some cattle to get them out just because they couldn't find pasture.”
Dooling said the real effects of the drought and inflation will be felt between 12 and 18 months from today.
“I think you're going to definitely see a 30 to 40 percent increase in prices,” he said. “I mean, look at beef already. You're going to continue to see those prices go up. We’ve got seven-dollar corn and two-dollar calves and we're going to see a 20 percent increase in beef easily. Of course, the thing about drought and agriculture is that it's a delayed kicker. You won't experience it for 18 months. All the food you're eating now was grown last year, like a calf that I had born in March; that t-bone won't be ready until next May, so it's that delayed kicker that you'll get down the road but not immediately. Less of everything and more expensive.”
Dooling and his wife Julie have both run for public office in Montana.