- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - Even with an increased chance of rain this week, some farmers are watching the forecasts with concern.

“I started worrying about it two weeks ago,” Bill Bridgeforth, of Bridgeforth Farms in Tanner, said of the lack of rain. “Right now the crops need good rain every seven to 10 days, and we aren’t getting that.”

Statistics from the National Drought Mitigation Center show all of north Alabama and much of western Alabama are either abnormally dry or in a moderate drought. Through Memorial Day, Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence counties had received only 1.62 inches of rain for the month, down from 4.8 inches received during the same time last year, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

Normal for that time period is 4.59 inches.

The National Weather Service is predicting scattered showers and thunderstorms later this week, with increased chances of precipitation coming this weekend.

Any rain would be welcomed by Bridgeforth Farms, which works corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat and canola. While the drought affects each crop differently, Bridgeforth said the corn and soybeans feel it the most.

“The conditions are real, real hard on the corn,” he said. “The drought can really cut down the yield and that’s not good for us, especially with prices being where they are now. The same goes for soybeans, but the weather is very hard on the corn right now.”

The May rainfall numbers aren’t solely responsible for the drought conditions.

From March 1 to Memorial Day, the area received 8.35 inches of rain, according to weather service data. Normal for that three-month period is 14.48 inches. Last year, the area received 17.36 inches during that same period. From Jan. 1 to May 30, the area received 18.3 inches, well below the normal of 24.21 inches. The area took in 17.36 inches of rain during the same period last year.

“We are definitely feeling the impact of the weather,” said Wes Isom, owner of Isom Orchard in Athens. “Even if you’re using in-ground and overhead irrigation, or drip precipitation, they aren’t the same as good, natural rainfall.”

Isom’s specializes in apples and peaches, but also grows and sells a number of vegetables, including green beans, cucumbers, white onions, tomatoes and pumpkins.

“This has been building for a while,” Isom said. “It’s hard to see it from a day-to-day perspective because we’ve gotten a few showers. That rain dries up quickly, though. I hate to say it, but sometimes it takes a tropical storm or weather like that to get you out of it.

“We’ve been fortunate to get a few showers here and there but never more than a couple of tenths of an inch. That’s not enough, and right now we’re just waiting it out.”

According to weather service forecaster Jennifer Saari, Isom, Bridgeforth and their fellow farmers may be waiting a while.

“There is a steady chance of isolated precipitation over the next week, but it would produce nowhere near the amount of rain the area needs,” Saari said. “Even if the area does receive rain every day, it won’t be enough to offer relief from the drought conditions.”

That’s troubling news for Bridgeforth and company.

“Given where prices are right now, farmers need near-record yields,” Bridgeforth said. “The longer these conditions stay like this, the harder it becomes on everyone. All we can do right now is wait it out, which is also hard.”


Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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