Lack of rain puts county crops at ‘critical stage’

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Like much of the country, Switzerland County has been suffering from a lack of rain. Lawns haven’t needed mowing; ponds are lower; creeks are dried up.

But perhaps nowhere is the lack of moisture more critical than in the farming community, where this summer’s lack of rain is pushing crops to a “critical point” that could severely hamper yields at harvest time.

Chuck Deputy of the Farm Service Agency said that his office’s most recent crop report showed that much of the county’s production is below average.

In terms of corn, the crop report stated that 20-percent of the Switzerland County crop was in “very poor” condition; 20-percent was in “poor” condition; 40-percent was in “fair” condition; and 20-percent was in “good” condition.

“We didn’t have any corn that we felt that we could list as being in excellent condition,” Chuck Deputy said.

Chuck Deputy said that there were a lot of stand issues early in the year along with the lack of moisture; and that right now the corn is simply not getting the rain that it needs to get.

“There’s not been much rain in some places, while other areas of the county have been getting some rain,” Chuck Deputy said. “It’s hard to get a handle on.”

Soy beans also told a bleak story on the crop report.

The FSA crop report stated that 10-percent of the Switzerland County crop was in “very poor” condition; 20-percent was in “poor” condition; 60-percent was in “fair” condition; and 10-percent was in “good” condition.

Again, Switzerland County officials could not find any soy bean crop that they considered “excellent”.

“The beans, from what I’ve seen, are looking a little better,” Chuck Deputy said. “Some are starting to bloom. But if we get a really hot stretch of weather and no rain, that could affect production on them quite a bit.”

Geographically, Chuck Deputy said that the crop lands along the river bottoms are “some of the worst I’ve seen around”; and he also targeted a stretch of land in the Bennington area that is in need of rain.

“The eastern side of the county typically does not have a lot of grain crops, mostly tobacco and hay,” Chuck Deputy said. “They’ve been really dry.”

As for tobacco, which has become the “forgotten crop” in many ways since the federal government changed the program, Chuck Deputy says that there’s still burley out in Switzerland County; but that tobacco is in the same predicament as all of the other crops.

“The rain this summer has been so spotty,” Chuck Deputy said. “In areas where they’ve gotten rain, the tobacco looks pretty good; but in dryer areas it’s still pretty short.”

Chuck Deputy said that area farmers are already at a point where they are going to see diminished yields due to the lack of rain; but that any rain now could help the hay and pasture crops.

“Tobacco still has a chance of coming out of it and being pretty good,” he said.

But the outlook overall still isn’t very favorable.

“I think right now from the crops I’ve seen, we’re probably in a pretty critical stage in terms of getting the moisture that we need to make the crop,” Chuck Deputy said. “Overall, we’re looking at a less than average year in terms of yields.”