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June 07, 2012   Email to Friend 

Katie Wendland
June 07, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Drought conditions continue to plague much of the state but few farmers are suffering more than those in the Wiregrass region.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates nearly 86 percent of the state is suffering from drought, however farmers in southeast Alabama have been in an extreme drought since January. Most of Henry County and sizable portions of Dale and Barbour counties are in an exceptional drought – the worst condition graded by the drought monitoring system.

Dale County Farmers Federation President Jerry Byrd and Henry County President Thomas Adams are among the farmers desperate for rain. 

“My cotton and peanuts haven’t grown in weeks,” Byrd said. “I know that if we can get some rain in the next few weeks the cotton and peanuts will respond.  Unfortunately, I don’t think my corn is going to bring much of a profit.”

In addition to the peanuts and cotton, Byrd has several acres of irrigated corn he predicts will fair better than his non-irrigated crops. However, he’s concerned about the water level in his irrigation pond, which he says is dropping rapidly.

Byrd said the drought is affecting his cattle and hay operations, too. While he’s had one partial cutting of hay and adequate grazing for his cows, he’s worried if it doesn’t rain soon, he’ll be forced to feed hay that’s normally saved for winter and is likely to be in short supply.

Thomas Adams is optimistic and thankful for the rain his cotton and peanuts received early in May, but he is still in serious need of rain. Just last week, he began irrigating his crops. After last year’s drought, creeks and ponds in the county are already lower than normal.

“I am concerned about subsoil moisture because of the already-low water levels,” he said. “I tried to wait for as long as I could on the first irrigation because we need to conserve water.”

Adams also has a herd of about 125 beef cows. A shortage of grass has forced him to feed hay as fast as he can get it cut and baled. “This is our third year feeding hay through the summer,” he said.
Adams and Byrd remain hopeful rain will come and give their crops the extra push they need.

“Crops don’t need water now like they will in about three months,” Adams said. “Right now the peanuts and cotton look fine, it is the cattle we are more concerned about.”

For more drought information visit the U.S. Drought Monitor for the Southeast.

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