CROPS SUFFER FROM SCORCHING HEAT AND DRY WEATHER
MONTGOMERY Hopes of a great crop have withered for many Alabama farmers who faced record-high temperatures and dry weather throughout much of August. Earlier this year, farmers predicted a near bumper crop for cotton and soybeans in many areas of the state, said Jerry Newby, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation. But those predictions changed quickly as daytime temperatures hovered at or above 100 degrees and rainfall became scarce in late July and August.
There are some areas of the state that haven't received significant rainfall since early July, Newby said. Cotton yields have been reduced as hot, dry weather caused the plants to shed late-developing bolls. Some soybean plants don't have pods and others have beans the size of BB's, he said.
Dairy and beef cattle operations benefited from plentiful rain earlier this year, which translated into lush pastures and a good hay crop, Newby said. Now, cattlemen in some areas of the state are feeding hay normally reserved for the cold, winter months. Some farmers have been forced to sell calves early because of scorched pastures. In addition, poultry and catfish mortality rates increase during prolonged warm spells, cutting profits and raising production costs, he said.
"The northern part of Alabama appears to be the hardest hit by the dry weather, but there are pockets throughout the state that have suffered from heat and dry conditions," Newby said. "The bright spots for the year have been the wheat and corn. Conditions were good for those crops earlier this year, and we're probably going to have a near record corn yield for the state."
But even for the farmers who manage to make a good crop, the news still isn't good, Newby said. Prices for corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat are the lowest in 10 years and low yields for some of those crops probably won't improve prices in Alabama because of overproduction in other parts of the country, he added.