Farmers face weather woes

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weather woes continue for area farmers as the drought drags on and temperatures remain in the high 90s.

James Jordan, president of the Pike County Young Farmers Association, said peanut and cotton prices are relatively high this year but that’s of little benefit to local farmers because of the devastating effects of the drought on local crops.

“It’s a tough year,” Jordan said, shaking his head. “The weather went from cold to hot and dry all the way. It looks like less than 30 percent of the acreage is going to make it. Some farmers got lucky and got a little rain and their crops go up. But most of us weren’t that lucky.

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“We started in a deficit and the water table never came back up. It’s probably going to stay that way unless a tropical storm comes and sits on us and brings the crops back up.”

For most Pike County farmers who don’t irrigate, the corn crop is gone and the cotton’s not far behind.

Jordan has 500 acres in row crops, 350 in cotton and 150 in peanuts. He has planted cotton twice and both crops dried up in the field.

“One inch down, the soil’s 125 to 130 degrees so what little rain we have gotten dried before it could do any good,” he said.

Jordan has been farming for 12 years and he’s been through two drought seasons.

“But those year, the crops got a start and that gave us some confidence,” he said. “But you can’t get any confidence unless the crops can get up.”

Cotton is in the critical stage right now because the seeds are planted only a quarter inch to an inch deep and the soil dries fast.

“The cotton seeds are so small that they don’t have much pushing power,” Jordan said. “They just can’t push up through the hard dry soil.”

Peanuts, however, have more push power and do better during dry weather.

“There’s still a little chance with the cotton if we can get some moisture in the ground soon,” Jordan said. “The peanuts will bloom and pin around mid-July and they’ll have to have some water then or the pods will burn up.”

Jordan has the heart of a farmer and is always confident that “next year will be a better year.” But he also knows that to stay on the farm, he must diversify.

“I’m building some ponds and do some excavation work to offset farm losses,” he said. “During the other droughts, the economy was good and I was able to do some bulldozer work. This time, there’s not a lot of construction work going on so there’s not a lot of dozer work to do.”