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Drought-stricken corn. Photo: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, some rights reserved
Drought-stricken corn. Photo: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, some rights reserved

Drought threatens hay, corn crops

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The hot, dry weather is taking a toll on crops in the region. Scattered heavy rains have brought some relief to some areas, but overall, production of field crops like hay and corn is suffering. As Joanna Richards reports, it's been decades since the north country experienced a summer so dry.

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Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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Paul O'Mara owns a grain farm in Canastota in Madison County, and he's not happy about the weather this summer. He said, "I've farmed for 35 years and I've never seen it quite this dry this time of the year."

Actually, it has been drier, but that was way back in 1979, two years into O'Mara's farming career. That's according to Mike Hunter, a field crops specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. He says Jefferson County's gotten just under an inch and a half of rain since June 14, and that's hit hay and alfalfa hard. Farmers are having to buy forage crops to feed their livestock, which is increasing their expenses. Hunter said, "You know, the homegrown forages just aren't there right now."

O'Mara says that, with farmers spending more money to feed their animals, they may send some off to slaughter sooner. He said, "Meat prices will actually drop over the next three or four weeks, because of that extra cattle going in the meat market, but unfortunately, when that's done, then they'll be no cattle. When those cattle would have been ready to sell, there'll be no cattle, so then the meat prices will go up."

Hunter says corn is the next crop that could go down with the lack of rain. It's at a critical stage right now, as it begins to show tassels. "We've had a lot of, obviously we've had some moisture stress on the corn crop, the heat, the dry weather, and that's going to be pretty critical, that we get rain here in the next few days, because if we don't, it's really going to start taking a toll on the yields of our corn crop at the end of the season," Hunter said.

Corn yields are already expected to be reduced. Hunter says the jury is still out on how much. Back in Canastota, Paul O'Mara is still waiting for a good, soaking rain. He said, "Right now, several inches of rain is what we need."

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