Scorched Earth: Farmers, ranchers struggle through another dry year
by Gary Kent
Jul 16, 2009 | 1059 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The ground is dry – so dry that the soil is cracking as the crops wither in the 100 plus temperatures.
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Darwin Anderson said it is little early to start assessing this year’s grain harvest.

However, the manager of the Bee County Co-op in Tynan said it is difficult to be optimistic about the outlook for the 2009 crop after so many months of dry weather.

“The irrigated looks good but the dry land is still not certain,” Anderson said of the grain sorghum he has seen so far.

The area around Tynan is what many would call Bee County’s grain belt. However, many farmers have cut their failed corn and bailed it for hay after crop insurers apparently determined that they were not worth harvesting for the grain.

Fortunately, many farmers in the southwest end of the county do irrigate.

Anderson admitted that some of the area’s grain sorghum looks good from the highway. But he said it’s too early to tell just how good the yields will be once farmers begin combining what they have.

“This harvest is just something we’ve got to get through,” Anderson said.

“We’re probably cutting 10-15 percent of a crop,” said farmer Troy Berthold.

He farms east of the city and just south of U.S. Highway 59.

“We’re down a bunch,” Berthold said. “It’s just dry, just really dry.” He said he is cutting corn before sorghum this year for only the second time in his life.

“We had all that rain in July ’07,” Berthold said, “and we haven’t really had any rain since. I guess we’re in a five-year drought.”

Crop insurance helps, the farmer said, but “you just keep using it. It’s paying back less and less.”

Berthold said he is about halfway through harvesting what crop he has. “We’re just going.”

“Some people got some rain but it got so hot it just burned it up,” he added.

Bee County Agricultural Extension Agent Donnie Montemayor said grain yields definitely are below average this year.

“They’re getting something,” he said. But yields are coming in at about 1,000 pounds an acre.

Normally, yields are about 3,000-4,000 pounds an acre.

Montemayor said some farmers have “zeroed out” their crops, collected the insurance and have cut and bailed the corn and grain sorghum.

Farmers will sell the bailed crops for hay and that is something else needed in the area.

“It’s pretty bad,” Montemayor said of the cattle business.

“You go to the auction barn on Friday and there are a lot of cattle being sold. You are seeing the price fall for cattle,” he said.

Fortunately, cattle still are worth something but that situation can only last so long as ranchers opt to cull their herds rather then feed them.

He said ranchers are feeding their animals anything they can find right now, including cotton seed cake.

Montemayor said some ranchers have called him to see about the long term forecasts, hoping some rain may be coming.

“It doesn’t look good,” he said. “It’s starting to look as bad as it was in 2006. And we’re halfway through the year.”

“It’s a bleak outlook,” the ag agent said. “Here we go again. The days are hot and dry. But it’s supposed to be like that this time of year.”

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