Brutal winter weather continued to batter the U.S. agriculture industry, as companies and farmers contended with snow, ice and cold temperatures that disrupted processing, snarled transport and killed livestock across the Midwest and South.
Winter storms are sowing challenges from Kansas to Alabama, state and industry officials said. Energy shortages forced meat-processing plants to temporarily close, while ice buildups kept grain barges off rivers and cattle ranchers struggled to save calves born onto frozen ground in the middle of the night.
The processing and transport disruptions, as well as the loss of animal life, are projected to cost agriculture companies and farmers millions of dollars. Farmers and state agriculture officials said it remained too early to tally all the costs.
“Mother Nature is a really tough business partner, and she has been pretty unforgiving here the past few days,” said Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma’s state agriculture commissioner.
The storm and its aftermath strained electrical grids, forcing rolling blackouts and the direction of natural gas supplies to residential homes. Natural gas constraints led Cargill Inc., one of the biggest U.S. beef processors, to shut down three Texas meat plants through Thursday, a spokesman said, and transportation difficulties slowed its grain and animal feed businesses elsewhere.