Drought number one concern at farmer's conference - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drought number one concern at farmer's conference

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February 8, 2008

Albany -- The number of farmers in Georgia gets fewer every year, and many of the producers at the 25th Annual Farmers Conference in Albany Friday said they are thinking about getting out of agriculture.

Lee and Worth County farmer Marquis Harris went to the farmers conference looking for the latest information, but admits there is only one thing he is thinking about as planting season approaches. Harris said "the drought is on my mind. I mean it's on my mind everyday."

Harris is a dryland farmer, who does not have irrigated fields. He plans to plant peanuts and corn, but knows another summer of drought is forecast. Harris said "I really should be doing something else, but I'm a third generation farmer, and that's what I to stay in."

Larry O'Neal has been a dryland farmer in Thomas County for 28 years, but says he does not know if he can survive another year of extreme drought and poor production. O'Neal said "everything you grow needs rain. With the corn was the most stressful and where I really lost a lot of money growing it."

Only about 35 percent of South Georgia farmers don't have irrigation, and they are becoming fewer each year. Harris and O'Neal says it's harder than ever to get loans to plant without irrigation, because banks are not willing to take the risk.

With climatologist forecasting another dry spring and summer, it's hard to be optimistic. O'Neal said "it sorta makes me wonder should I plant or shouldn't I plant. My occupation is farming, so I have to plant something and hope for the best." Harris said "I still gonna do what I got to do. I got a family to take care of, and this is all I got going for me."

 As farmers listen to experts talk about disease management and new crop marketing, the drought is still the number one thought on all farmer's minds.

The Georgia Farmers Conference continues Saturday at the Hilton in Downtown Albany. Congressman Sanford Bishop is one of the scheduled speakers.

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