That welcomed rain!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 18, 2000

Rain, free hay brings

hope to area farmers


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Features Editor

Rain finally fell on Pike County Friday

and Saturday in amounts that could be measured in more than

a thimble. By late afternoon, the grass seemed to be greener and spirits were a bit higher. But was it too little, too late for farmers?

Bert Curtis walked his peanut fields which, in the middle of the worst drought in 40 years, didn’t look that bad. Peanuts that would have been 12 inches across in a normal year were about half that but Curtis said he could still salvage a near average crop – if.

"An inch or two followed by more drought conditions won’t help," he said. "We need consistent rain over the next five weeks for it to really bring the peanut crop around."

Curtis said the corn crop is already gone and the cotton crop probably won’t be as productive as the peanuts which are more durable plant.

"It’s still going to be a wait and see situation," Curtis said.

Kenneth Harden was encouraged by the rainfall. His cotton seeds that had been lying dormant in the dust got enough moisture that they puffed up.

"Even with that little bit of rain, some of the seeds got a tip on them," Harden said. "If we can continue to get rain, we might have a chance of a crop. Of course it won’t be a normal crop but we might get a bale an acre and that beats nothing. I’ve never lost a crop in the spring and I hope I can salvage something out of this crop."

For the cattle farmers, the rain meant a greening of their pastures. Hopefully, the rain will continue and they can get a good stand in their pastures. At best, it will take about 30 days for the pastures to be ready to graze. Until that time, the effects of the drought are still hitting them hard. There’s no grazing land and the hay is gone. The situation for the cattle farmers is still critical but help is on the way.

National Guard trucks began hauling hay from Mississippi to Alabama cattle operations Friday in an effort to maintain herds during the drought.

Pike County was not their destination. The hay went to Henry County farmers whose need was determined to be the greatest.

However, State Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Charles Bishop told area cattle farmers at a meeting in Troy Wednesday that help is on the way.

Bishop met with Pike County cattle farmers at South Alabama Electric Co-op Wednesday to let them of his plans to feed their cattle. Earlier in the week Bishop outlined a plan to generate $2.5 million in state, federal and farm association funds to buy hay to distribute free of charge to those who qualify according to criteria established by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Later, Wednesday a group from various farm related agencies and organizations met at the Pike County Extension System Office to discuss where and how the hay can best be distributed once it arrives and how to determine who is qualified and whose needs are the greatest.

Pike County Extension System coordinator Tammy Powell said timing is critical for those who need the free hay that will be made available.

"Priority of hay being delivered to Pike County may depend on the quick response of the farmers," she said.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has set the following requirements for producers to receive hay:

·More than 50 percent of their income must be from farming.

· Producers must have owned your cattle for at least one year.

· Producers must be out of hay.

Powell said applications should be in the mail to the country’s 399 cattle farmers Monday. Those who meet the requirements of the Department of Agriculture should

complete an application and return it to the Pike County Extension System, 306 S. Three Notch St. Troy, AL 36081.

"Farmers may bring their applications to the office, mail it or FAX it," Powell said.

"Applications are also available at the County Extension Office. When we know of hay being delivered, we will let the farmers know when and where it can be picked up.

Even with the rain Powell said the need for hay remains critical and area farmers who have hay available for sale are asked to contact the Extension System with that information so it may be passed on to the farmers.

For more information contact the Pike County Extension System at 566-0985.