Worsening Drought Nationwide Isn't What Farmers Wanted to Hear

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

In this photo taken Aug. 1, 2012, dry ears of corn and plant material lie in a field near Plumerville, Ark. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, Aug. 9, shows that the amount of the contiguous U.S. mired in drought conditions dropped a little more than 1 percentage point (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

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By Liz Blood

LINN COUNTY, Iowa - A new drought report released Thursday shows the nation’s dry conditions are worsening.

The latest weekly U.S. Drought Monitor Report showed that 60.1% of the lower 48 states were in some form of drought this week. That’s up from 58.8% just the week before. The amount of land in extreme or exception drought conditions is now 19.04%.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said Iowa’s drought status was basically unchanged from the prior week. However, eastern Iowa is better than it was some weeks ago when most of the area was in extreme or severe drought.

Still, that’s not necessarily good news because after above normal precipitation in October, many were hoping to make up even more ground on the drought in November. And for farmers, the implications of a second year of severe drought is something they’d rather not contemplate so soon.

Linn County farmer Al Platner said his “wetland” in one field isn’t so wet right now and he only got a half crop from an alfalfa field. Yet, like most farmers he won’t push the panic button this far in advance of spring planting.

“Well, we’re eternal optimists. We’ve got most of our fertilizer in the ground for next year. And that’s with the hope we’re going to get some kind of moisture this spring or over winter,” Platner said.

Still, Platner agreed a lot of farmers are nervous because the “could-have-been-worse” harvest this year came with a price. Crops this year totally depleted subsoil moisture. Without enough rain next spring to recharge the soil, crops may have a much tougher time growing in 2013.

Denny Sejkora, another Linn County farmer, didn’t really make any changes in anticipation of a continued drought next year. He tilled his fields as normal this fall and applied the usual amount of fertilizer. But he does remember the second year of a long term drought is sometimes worse than the first.

“I can remember 1988 and 1989. Nobody talks about the drought of 1989 but we actually got less rainfall than we did in 1988,” Sejkora said.

Sejkora remembers that second big drought year came with cooler weather and more timely rains. He said there’s not much farmers can do except hope history repeats itself.

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