Farmers in Clermont County are all praying for one thing – rain.
The few inches of rain that have fallen on the county in the past couple of weeks have helped, but have not changed the fact that, according to U.S. Drought Monitor Weekly, Clermont is still in the middle of a very severe drought.
The Ohio State University Extension and the Farm Service Agency are very concerned with this lack of moisture and are expecting lower yields this year from the more than 900 farms in the county as a result of these dry conditions, especially in the southwestern portions of the county.
“Crops need the right amount of moisture at the right time to produce the right yield,” said O.S.U. Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Stephanie Hines. “If we do not see sustained rain soon, the potential is there for a very bad year for our county farmers.”
"Well, we had to re-plant our soybeans because they sprouted and died early due to lack of rain. The corn is still growing now, but about half of the corn crops are damaged and hurting. We don't know the end result of the drought yet, but we are still hopeful that we can recover," he said.
According to Hines, the four most populous crops in Clermont County are corn, soybeans, tobacco, and forages (hay, wheat, etc.).
Traditional row crops, such as corn and soybeans, are still surviving, but continue to struggle. Crops planted later are experiencing emergence issues with some fields showing large areas without emerged plants. Corn planted earlier will have a better chance of survival as long as it rains soon, Hines said.
Farms have reported that the county's soybean crops are highly stressed due to lack of moisture and that some are struggling. If the severe drought continues, the soybeans that are still hanging on could perish as the crops get closer to pollination and later stages of production.
Grass forage production has been greatly impacted by the lack of rain, said Hines. The first cutting of hay this year has been down by half and the regrowth for the second cutting has been very slow and, in most cases, nonexistent.
Pasture production for the county's livestock is also way down and cattle producers are being forced to supplement with hay. Hines said that this could continue to be a difficult production season because hay is becoming scarce and and as a result, very costly.
Steve Anderson, the director of the Clermont Farm Service Agency, said that his office is monitoring the health of the farms in the county and speaks daily to concerned farmers and consumers.
"The drought's impact on Clermont farmers can be related to potentially significant losses of income this year and potential difficulties finding affordable hay and other feed," Anderson said. "Overall, we are very concerned with the drought conditions. The drought is hitting everyone pretty hard and we are praying for relief soon. It is not too late for some of the crops, provided we get a good rain shower at least once a week from this point on."
The Farm Service Agency is sending flash reports about the progress of the summer drought to the USDA in Columbus (that get forwarded to Washington) requesting financial assistance for the emergency conservation program to help out county farmers. The FSA is still awaiting word on whether or not funding will be forthcoming.
Unfortunately for the farmers and their crops in Clermont County, the National Weather Service Agency in Wilmington has said that the forecast for rain is minimal in the next few months.