As 2007 draws to a close, most Alabama farmers are looking back on a year they hope to soon forget.
First, it was too cold; then, it was too hot, and it's been too dry all year long.
Many farmers felt the effects of a second year of drought when their crops were harvested.
The year 2007 started with a rainfall deficit of more than 12 inches. However, farmers were optimistic that weather patterns would return to normal.
But before the summer growing season even began, a freeze over Easter weekend killed budding fruit trees and nearly wiped-out the state's winter wheat crop.
Still hopeful, farmers planted 50 percent more corn than they did last year, only to see it wither and die when the rains failed to return.
Crop production was way down. Forage production was way down. Even produce and fruit production was way down because of the drought; a long drought that's a carry-over from a year ago,” says Jerry Newby with the Alabama Farmers Federation. At the same time, all of our input costs were going up. So, everything that we use, from fertilizer to fuel to everything else, cost more; at the same time, a short crop.”
While corn and cotton growers have already experienced the pain of the failed crop, livestock producers are continuing to deal with the effects of the drought. Without rain, grass doesn't grow. So, many cattlemen started feeding their winter hay during the heat of the summer. And, there was no new hay to replace what they were feeding.
“This year, we had to feed hay in June. Then, we started feeding like it was the middle of winter about the first of August, and we've been feeding hay ever since. Normally, we cut 1100 rolls in the summer. This year, we cut just over 400 rolls, so we're going to be looking real hard at feed sources pretty soon,” says Cattle Producer Ray Bean.
Bean says he's more fortunate than some of his neighbors who have had to sell their herds because they couldn't feed them. However, in the back of his mind is the thought that he may still have to sell out unless he finds more hay, or it rains soon.
The latest drought monitor survey shows approximately 49 percent of Alabama is still under exceptional drought conditions.