Traditional holiday foods for Texas tables won’t be in short supply this year, but the state’s worst drought on record is driving up some food prices that will make the cost of certain Thanksgiving foods slightly higher than last year, and it is threatening producers who say they fear a continued drought could force many of them out of business.

“The drought-driven uncertainty in the Texas poultry industry, complicated by tough state and federal regulations, has many of us worried about surviving another tough year,” says Kenny McCoy of Lazy K Turkey Farm.

McCoy, who raises turkeys near Temple, says in spite of modest price increases consumers might see at the grocery store this year, producers have been experiencing escalating operational costs for years without any significant increases in farm revenue, resulting in smaller profits.

“I have been raising turkeys in the same location for 32 years now and have never seen a significant increase in farm revenue,” he says. “Considering the cost of doing business and keeping up with loan payments, I am not making much more per turkey now than I did years ago.”

McCoy, like most turkey farmers in Texas, sells all of his product to Cargill.

“They provide the feed, but the price of water and electricity keeps going up, and I am buying water at a much higher rate than the average consumer. But worse than that, state and federal regulations have forced me to stop using turkey manure in my own fields because of stiff regulations and red tape, so I sell my turkey manure and buy my fertilizer like everyone else, and that has gone up considerably,” he adds.

McCoy says the turkey business alone isn’t enough to keep his farm going; he also runs cattle and grows his own hay and forage in a normal year.

“But the drought took care of that for us this year. Water is expensive and hard to come by so there isn’t any hay left, and I have sold half of my cows because of the price of feed. We will survive this year’s drought, but if it continues into next summer and fall, I don’t know what will happen,” McCoy said.

Stanley Rabke of Rabke’s Table Ready Meats in Willow City (near Fredericksburg) says the drought is squeezing farms and ranches in more ways than one. Rabke no longer raises his own turkeys and now focuses on his successful meat smoking operation.