Ranchers are also suffering. Last year, many of them sold off their herds to ranchers in other states where water and feed were more plentiful. This year, they say that may not be possible because the drought is so widespread. If water and feed have to be transported here it will likely cost not only ranchers but also consumers.
As he sifted powdery soil through his hands, Marty Reeves of the Farm Service Administration confirmed the bad news. "The person at the grocery store is going to see higher prices for food — simple as that," he said. "If we can't grow the food here, it's going to have to come from somewhere where they're not having a drought and it's going to make it more expensive. It simply costs more to get it here."
Ray Schmidt, a farmer who has grown wheat for 57 years, looked out at the flat horizon and predicted the worst.
"We haven't seen anything yet, " he said. "If we don't get moisture pretty quick, if we start getting wind now and in March we could have another dust bowl for a few months."
A few minutes later, strong winds blew across the prairie, peeled off precious topsoil, and kicked up dense clouds of dust. Tumbleweed flew through the air and bounced aimlessly across Schmidt's desolate wheat fields.
It looked like the 1930s had already returned.