Ag Drought All But Gone

July's rains have more than made up for the lack of water earlier this summer. Tony has the latest from the fields as most farmers locally are in way better shape than their comrades in the nearby Midwest.


Tropical vs Desert Week Ahead in American Breadbasket
OK, let me start off this week’s ag update with a tip of the hat to all the old timers I have met on the county fair circuit over the years. This week your famous adage, “it’s always hot and it always rains at the fair” will be spot on!
County fairs are indeed underway from Cottageville (Jackson WV Jr) to Milton (Cabell) to Coalton (Boyd) with folks walking the midway guaranteed a hot and steamy stroll this week. For kids in 4H and FFA (Future Farmers of America), this is their super bowl week as they show their animals with an eye on winning the title “grand champion”.
While the midways were parched and dusty just 3 weeks ago, this week the ground is firm and even wet in spots thanks to a wet July.
But before the coveted blue ribbon can be pinned on and in between those fiery “goodness gracious great balls of fire” sunsets, clusters of showers and thunderstorms are set to prance across the region. Those rains will keep fairgoers on their toes while coming as added delight to farmers still working hard to raise a crop and feed their cattle.
One look at the July rainfall map that I used on YOUR 5:30 EDITION tells the story of the summer of 2012, namely; it’s a story of the RAIN HAVES VERSUS HAVE NOTS.
Take a look at how close we are to the punishing drought that has wilted the corn and soybean crops in the fields to the west. In effect, it has rained all of an inch or less this month of July from Central and Southwestern Ohio thru Western Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Since it takes an inch of rain PER WEEK to sustain a good crop, the July rain shortage has in effect choked the corn and beans to death. Here a desert climate comparable to that of the dust bowl days of the 1930s is entrenched.
Now look at our region. We are squarely in the RED ZONE, an area where already 4”-6” of rain has fallen this month. Even the parched Scioto Valley of June has become lush and succulent near the river’s mouth at Alexandria Point in West Portsmouth here in July. There the Boone Coleman farmland soils are moist and rich in nutrients thanks to close to 3” of crop saving rain water this month.
Matt Lewis in the Scioto Bottomlands was elated when I called today. “We will have a good soybean crop this year. Of course not too far away, the fields are like checkerboards”, Matt told me. That is a fancy way of saying some Ohio farmer’s fields are OK others are not.
Lyndal Harned at the Boyd County Fairgrounds told me a similar tale. “The early corn may be lost but those who planted in mid May will get a crop and hay farmers will have a second cut”. That second cut will assure hay for cattle come later in the fall when the grasses have stopped growing. There for awhile, it looked like cattle would have to be sold early before they fattened up since there was too little grass to graze on and hay to be fed. Now both will be in abundance heading into the fall. That means a heavier steer to be sold and a bigger windfall for farmers.
Now back to the plight of farmers just an hour or two drive to our west. If you go back to June 1st, many of these same areas in the Breadbasket of the USA are working on 2 inches of water in 2 months. Central Indiana near the Circle City of Indianapolis has measured only .8” of rain in two months. Little did I know when I mentioned how unusual it was for an ‘Indy 500 weekend to not have any rain and that must be a drought indicator” that an historic event was beginning to unfold.
With the yield of this year’s corn and soybean crops to come in way under normal, and with our local farmers among the few who will have an OK or even good harvest, the law of supply and demand suggests higher prices ahead for our farmers locally.
As for the rains this week, I sense a few gully washing downpours the next 3 days with most areas to get an inch or more of rain. That 1 inch target is important since it takes an inch per week to make a good crop.
So now that your grass has greened and farmers fields have turned lush, the good news is more rain is in the pipeline thanks to the hot and steamy Dog Days of mid-summer! If only we can keep our power on and not flood our streets. Wishful thinking this summer July of 2012.
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