"The 1980s were a much different time, average food prices in the '80s were much higher than in recent years," Volpe said. "Fuel prices were much more volatile and the global economy and market for commodities were not as efficient."
While Mullin waits to see just how bad things will get he says that his saving grace, like other farmers, could be having federal crop insurance. But, he added, that only goes so far.
That's one reason why Mullin, and others in his state, are anxiously waiting to see how state and federal authorities may be able to help.
Mullin said he is hopeful he may hear some answers from a drought conference being led by Iowa's governor on Tuesday.
Vilsack said the biggest problem is that while the USDA has emergency loans and some other options to help, it lacks the full resources the government needs.
"The real challenge for us is the USDA does not have the tools it once had to help people through this difficult time," Vilsack told CNN.
Vilsack used the drought as an example to plead with the Senate to pass a farm bill that has already cleared the U.S. House of Representative, adding it was not enough to extend a previous bill that expired. He noted that the 2008 farm bill which expired had provided $4 billion in disaster assistance to 400,000 farmers and ranchers while it existed.
"Just extending the 2008 bill will not revive disaster programs for livestock producers" he said.