WAXAHACHIE, Tx. — There is a steady race against the clock for Steve Patman and his workers as they work to get a field of hay harvested before sweltering Texas temperatures become too much to work in.
Patman's great-grandfather first started farming the fields in Waxahachie, Texas, after World War I. But in all his 65 years, this lifelong Texan cannot recall ever seeing things so dry.
"See how the bottom leaves are all dried up, you're losing hay," Patman said kneeling down in the middle of a recently harvested hay field.
It's been more than a month since any kind of considerable rain has fallen on this part of Texas. Irrigating the fields is far too expensive for most farmers. So starved for moisture, crops are dying, forcing Patman to harvest both his hay and corn weeks early.
"It makes me debate whether I need to keep going or stop," Patman said.
At the end of the day, farmers like Patman are producing far less than they had hoped. Just to keep up with rising costs, he recently had to take out a $500,000 loan from the bank.
"I've been farming on the same money since I started. This year kicked us in the butt. You're never getting ahead. It's getting too hard I'm getting too old now," Patman added.
Farmers across the country are in extreme or exceptional droughts right now. They are squeezed between poor growing conditions and inflation costs driving up everything from fertilizer to tractor parts.
"It's terrible and it's not just me I've got farmer friends all over the United States and they're all in the same boat we're in," he said.
Ginger Mulkey managed Boyce Feed and Grain in the center of Waxahachie. She knows how hard her neighbors are working to keep Americans fed. But with each new shipment of feed and grain that comes in, she's forced to raise prices.
"At the end of the day, all I do is adjust pricing. If I'm not staying on top of pricing you're giving it away," she remarked.