Drought conditions spell doom and gloom for area farmers

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pike County farmers are in dire straits.

As drought conditions continue, a tropical storm is about the only hope for farmers.

“It’s bad to wish for a tropical storm but it seems like that’s just about the only chance for farmers to make it,” said Jeff Knotts, county executive director. “That’s what it’s going to take and even that might not be enough.”

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Knotts said that he talked with several Pike County farmers on Wednesday and the outlook is grim.

“We’re in dire need of rain,” he said. “Everything is drying up and it’s affecting row crop farmers, cattle producers and poultry farmers. It’s getting everybody.

“Just about anybody that didn’t irrigate lost their corn, and peanuts haven’t lapped yet. What the farmers told me is that they’ve pulled up vines and there are no peanuts in the hulls. It’s just about too late now to make any peanuts to speak of.”

Knott said the slight chance for peanuts to make it would be a tropical storm that could dump three or more inches on the ground.

“An inch or two won’t do,” he said. “We need a storm without a lot of wind that would bring a slow rain over two or three days.  An inch of rain on sandy soil would soak up before it could do any good and a hard rain would run right off clay soil because it’s as hard as cement right now. A good soaking rain over several days is what it’s going to take to get any kind of peanut crop.”

Cotton usually does a little better in dry weather but cotton, too, needs rain.

“The drought will hurt the cotton yield but, right now, cotton is holding its own,” Knotts said.

Cattle producers are also feeling the “heat” of this long, hot summer.

“Two weeks ago, there was the possibility of another cutting of hay but now things are going in reverse,” Knotts said. “There’s less hay now than there was then. It’s all turned brown. Producers are feeding their cattle the hay they cut earlier in the year. So, there won’t be enough hay to make it through the winter. Some producers are selling off the calves they normally would keep because there won’t be enough hay to feed the mamas and the calves in the winter.”

Creeks are drying up and the lack of water is an added concern for livestock producers.

Poultry farmers are also being hit hard by the drought.

In fact, Knotts said they are getting a “double whammy.”

“The heat is really hurting poultry farmers because they a losing more of their birds,” he said. “It’s so hot that the fans and sprinklers are not enough to keep the birds cool. They are confined and, when they can’t move around enough to stay cool, they start dying.”

In an effort to keep the birds cool and watered, utility usage is up and the costs rise.

“Those costs could double and even triple,” Knotts said. “Couple those rising costs with the additional loss of chickens, then poultry farmers have a double whammy on them.”

Knotts said that indications are that a storm is brewing in the Gulf but where it will go, no one knows.

“You don’t want to wish for a storm but we sure do need rain,” Knotts said.

Farming Feeds Alabama so when the farmers hurt, so does everybody else.