10/24/07 — 2007 will be remembered by most Wayne farmers as bad crop year

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2007 will be remembered by most Wayne farmers as bad crop year

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 24, 2007 2:16 PM

With Wayne County and the majority of the rest of the state in the throes of an exceptional drought, area farmers are suffering much of the brunt of the impact.

"Everything has been way off (its usual production)," said county Cooperative Extension Agent Kevin Johnson.

The reason, explained Rick Tharrington, executive director for the Wayne County Farm Agency, is because of the dramatic rain shortfall. Though, he added, that deficit is not the same across the county.

"I've got a wide variation in the county from 19 inches behind in one location, to only three inches behind in another. We've had a varied amount of rain in the county," he said. "And looking at the crops in the county, I believe there is that much variation.

"But that makes it very hard to get a real read on how short we are, and it makes it very difficult for us to come up with a county average (for crop yields)."

Right now, Johnson explained, cotton harvests are coming in anywhere from 350 to 750 pounds under their average yield.

"We've been averaging 1,000 pounds an acre," he said. "A lot of the loss is because of the heat and drought."

Soybeans, he continued, which should begin being harvested later this week, also are likely to be in trouble.

"I know of some farmers who aren't even going to harvest this year, it's going to be so bad," Johnson said. "We expect the yield to be way off."

But, he added, there's no way to tell yet by how much.

So far, the only saving grace this summer has been tobacco.

"It had a fair year," he said. "Tobacco is a fairly hardy crop. It wasn't as good as it could have been, but it was a pretty decent year all things considered."

Corn, on the other hand, was down an average of 25 percent, though because of the rain variations, some areas were a total loss, while others had close to a normal crop.

Farmers also are still suffering the repercussions of the late spring freeze in April, which almost devastated the wheat crop.

All in all, Johnson said, it's adding up to a bad year.

"We're trying to get a handle on it, but everything's way off," he said. "We're just in a waiting game."

He estimated that it would be about mid-November before they really know how bad Wayne County has been hurt.

For farmers affected by the April freeze and by the dry weather in 2005 and 2006, though, there is disaster relief available.

"We're running a disaster program right now for 2005-06. That includes anything planted before Feb. 28, 2007," Tharrington said. "There are no disaster programs yet for the 2007 crop year, but that's understandable because we're not done with it yet."

For information about the disaster relief programs, visit the Wayne Center at the corner of George and Chestnut streets.