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Dry weather threatens hay, corn crops

The hot, dry weather is taking a toll on crops in the region. Scattered heavy rains have brought some relief to some areas, but overall, production of field crops like hay and corn is suffering. In the North Country, it's been decades since the area experienced a summer so dry.

Paul O'Mara owns a grain farm in Canastota, in Madison County, and he's not happy about the weather this summer.

"I've farmed for 35 years and I've never seen it quite this dry this time of the year," he said.

Actually, it has been drier – but that was way back in 1979, two years into O'Mara's farming career. That's according to Mike Hunter, a field crops specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

He said Jefferson County's gotten just under an inch and a half of rain since June 14, and that's hit hay and alfalfa hard. Farmers are having to buy forage crops to feed their livestock, increasing their expenses.

"You know, the homegrown forages just aren't there right now," Hunter said.

With farmers spending more money to feed their animals, they may send some off to slaughter sooner.

"Meat prices will actually drop over the next three or four weeks, because of that extra cattle going in the meat market, but unfortunately, when that's done, then there'll be no cattle," O'Mara said. "When those cattle would have been ready to sell, there'll be no cattle, so then the meat prices will go up."

Corn is the next crop that could go down with the lack of rain, Hunter said. It's at a critical stage right now, as it begins to show tassels.

"We've had a lot of, obviously, we've had some moisture stress on the corn crop, the heat, the dry weather, and that's going to be pretty critical, that we get rain here in the next few days. Because if we don't, it's really going to start taking a toll on the yields of our corn crop at the end of the season," he said.

Corn yields are already expected to be reduced. Hunter said the jury is still out on by how much.

Back in Canastota, Paul O'Mara is still waiting for a good, soaking rain.

"Right now, several inches of rain is what we need," he said.