Drought creates major costs for local farmers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drought creates major costs for local farmers

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May 21, 2007

Leesburg -- Southwest Georgia farmlands are in the middle of a level 2 drought. Cornfields in Lee County haven't seen significant rainfall in more than a month. That's creating huge costs for farmers to irrigate their fields. Roy Goodson is a pecan farmer in Lee County.

"The more you pump the more it's going to cost you. We're not getting any rain from above and that's what is really concerning everyone right now. These irrigation systems are designed as a supplement to water. And if we're not getting anything to supplement what we're getting then we have to put all the water out here to help produce this crop. And that gets very expensive."

The rising cost of diesel fuel has farmers paying an estimated $2.25 a gallon, and with many farms spanning hundreds of acres, the irrigation systems which run off of diesel and electricity are costing farm owners tens of thousands of dollars in fuel costs.

"It's very expensive for farmers to irrigate their crops right now, they've got a lot of money tied up in chemicals and fertilizers. The cost of productions has increased significantly this year and that's just compounding the problems that are brought to us by the drought," says Hank Hammond, County Executive Director of the Lee county FSA office.

Seventy-four Georgia counties are suffering through extreme drought conditions. Farmers worry about devastating losses at harvest time.

Goodson adds, "This is the worst I have seen for this time of the year. And I know that south of us, it is a lot worse than it is here."

And he's right, non-irrigated farms have been hit the worst, losing most or all of their crops in many areas. Below normal rainfall last year left many farms ponds unfilled which hurt irrigation systems. And with farmers pushing typical May crops like cotton and peanuts back, a lingering drought could cause even more problems for southwest Georgia farmers.

Agriculture is a $50 billion a year industry in Georgia.