Near Record Rain Is Mixed Bag For Alabama Farmers
Plentiful summer rain is a stark contrast to the droughts many Alabama farmers experienced in recent years. Areas of the state recorded nearly 20 inches of rain in July compared to the same month last year when more than 80 percent of Alabama was abnormally dry.
Fruits and vegetables suffered from excessive rain this summer with farmers reporting losses in blueberry, tomato and other crops.
Elmore County farmer Joe Lambrecht saw his blueberries took a beating from the rain, estimating he lost about 70 percent of the crop.
“The heavy rains knocked the blueberries on the ground,” said Lambrecht, who owns Oakview Farms Granary with his wife, Patty. “The berries that were left split because of all the rain.”
Baldwin County farmer John Bitto, 31, said rain has made farming a challenge all year.
“From drowned-out crops to late planting and now later-than-usual harvest, it has been difficult,” he said. “We bought a set of tracks for the combine and that is the only reason we are able to go in the field.”
Portions of Alabama’s billion-dollar timber industry were in a bog for much of the summer, too, said Lynn Johnson, owner of Johnson Brothers Logging in Brantley. He said it’s the wettest summer in his 35-year career.
“Slippery conditions present problems for us,” Johnson said. “Spinning tires can’t grip mud, and that makes equipment use more fuel. Trucks that haul logs have to park near the road so we can get out of the woods, and timber normally harvested a few feet from the truck is moved several hundred feet before it’s loaded.”
That requires more time and fuel, he said.
Meanwhile, preliminary harvest reports indicate row crops and pastures soaked up benefits brought by the rain.
“It takes a combination of rain and sun to have (corn) plants as large as we do this year,” said Lowndes County farmer Dan Rhyne, a member of the Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat and Feed Grains State Committee. “This is one of the best crops I’ve seen.”â€¨
Corn, cotton and soybeans are on track for good yields, according to the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service’s Crop Progress and Condition Report. However the peanut crop may be down from 2012.