Despite rains, outlook still gloomy for local farmers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

The U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to have gloomy news for area farmers.

The agency reported that much of the southern portion of the state continues to reflect dry or moderate to severe drought conditions.

The USDA stated that some areas of south Alabama have received 15 inches or more less than normal rainfall amounts, adding that the major problems are south of Montgomery.

Conditions are listed as becoming drier the farther south and west you go.

According to the National Drought Monitor, 40 percent of the country is in severe or worse drought conditions.

The conditions, however, are apparently not as bad as they could be, and in fact are not as dismal as they have been in the recent past.

According to Herb Vanderberry, who is the state statistician for the statistics service, isolated showers have kept many farmers in at least fair condition.

During the drought of two years ago, many crops were wilted by June and Birmingham experienced threats to its drinking water supplies. Some never recovered from that drought according to a spokesperson with the Alabama Cattlemen's Association.

Covington County Extension Agent Chuck Simon said Covington County is still experiencing its share of the drought-related problems.

"We are not desperate, but we are seeing some of (the problems with the lack of rain)," said Simon. "Some areas of (the county) have gotten intense rain at times and some areas really have not gotten much. We just really need a tropical depression to occur at the right time. We need 13 inches of rain really in the next three weeks. Some of the lakes around here have never filled back up."

He said the forecast for the near future for Covington County does not appear to be much brighter.

"We really need about an inch of rain per week and we are not coming close to that," said Simon. "We are really now just starting to hit the dry part of summer, and it is the critical period for the pecan crop. Fruits and vegetables have pretty much played out."

Simon said he is not totally familiar with how Covington County is faring drought-wise compared to other neighboring counties, but said he has been informed that parts of the Florida panhandle are experiencing dome dry spots, and that parts of north Alabama are faring much better with rainfall.

Farmer Harold Elmore, from the Stanley community, said fortunately he has seen his share of the wet stuff.

"We have been blessed (with the rain he has gotten)," said Elmore, who grows cotton and peanuts. "Some places have not gotten much rain, but we got about four-tenths of an inch this past Saturday. There is still no access moisture, though. We are not in a desperate situation yet, but we are about four or five days from that."