Dry Weather Hurting Farms

By: Philip Stewart Email
By: Philip Stewart Email

August 3, 2007

Farms are suffering from the heat and the lack of rain this season. With a string of hot and dry days on the way, some in the area calling for drought emergency funding from the state.

The dust kicked up by tractors on Adventure Farm, LLC in Albemarle County, tells the story. Crops on area farms are extremely dry.

This time of year the cattle usually graze off the fields, but not this year.

"That makes us nervous because it might make a long winter," said Carl Tinder, who is on the board of the Albemarle County Farm Bureau. "You start feeding cattle now and we might have to feed them all the way through the fall and into the winter."

So by the end of the winter, hay for the cows to eat could be in very low supply, leaving very few options for farmers.

"You try to go a couple of counties over to make it reasonable to haul hay back in here, and there's no hay to be found. Everybody's in the same situation, so you're starting to haul hay in from out of state which, essentially, just makes it unaffordable," said Tinder.

That's why this week the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors stepped in. They passed a resolution declaring the county a drought disaster area. If approved by Governor Kaine, area farms could be eligible for emergency aid money.

"Farmers have lost between 35 and 50 percent of their pasture crops, and it's a very very bad economic situation for them right now," said board member Dennis Rooker.

"Any help is needed," said Tinder. "We need to sustain a national food supply and any little help, even regionally, goes a long way to make sure every producer can stay in business in the rest of the country."

It'll be several weeks before the governor makes a decision to declare a drought disaster. So for now, farmers' eyes are on the skies.

"We're going to keep our fingers crossed for rain. We're eternal optimists, so you're always hoping for rain, but we know that we face the harsh reality that it might not, so we better be prepared in case it doesn't," said Tinder.

The farmers will keep the cows grazing out in the fields as long as they can. Even a little rainfall can help generate some new greens in the pastures. But if rainfall is followed by more hot days, there will be little improvement.

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