Agricultural impacts of the Alabama drought

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The 2016 drought that now continues into 2017 in Alabama has impacted everyone. Whether it’s cutting back on your water usage or paying a few more dollars for groceries, Alabamians still feel the impacts.

The agricultural industry was definitely not immune with livestock producers and farmers suffering every day we spent without rain. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) gave us a glimpse at how the ag industry is handling the drought, and showed us a great resource for those looking for some solutions.

Let’s start with row crops (corn, soybeans, cotton) in Central Alabama. Many farmers saw terrible crops of dry-land corn and soybeans. However, the cotton crop was a good one, owing to ideal planting conditions, lots of sunshine, timely rain during the summer and ideal weather for opening and harvest.

Attending local farmer’s markets in the area gave you a mix of results. Some larger farms with the ability to irrigate were able to manage the dry conditions while those with smaller farms suffered with the lack of funds to water as needed.

Livestock were also impacted by the drought. So far more than $30 million in USDA disaster funds has already been distributed for livestock feed programs and non-insured disaster assistance support. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that, because livestock feed was in short supply, cattle sales were 19% ahead of 2015 in Alabama. This limited the amount that livestock was sold for.

With people in the industry looking for help, ACES came up with an all-in-one resource, alabamadrought.com. The website is geared toward farmers and livestock producers, but can also be a valuable tool for those not in ag.“AlabamaDrought.com is a comprehensive resource for the state’s residents,” said Dr. Gary Lemme, Alabama Extension director. “It addresses the needs of farmers and producers as well as homeowners.”

The website features sections on, livestock & feed, crops, gardens & landscaping, families, farm finance, wildlife, water and weather. It also includes videos and important information on the ongoing drought. Emery Tschetter, Director, Communications and Marketing for ACES says the website “has worked so well that we are laying the groundwork for additional sites that help us respond to flooding, storms, and other rapidly developing issues of state and regional importance.  We’ve heard from people across the region who found it helpful because it directly answers their immediate questions from a trusted Alabama source.” And the site will not just shut down once the drought is over. Tschetter says as long as there are financial impacts stemming from the drought, the site will be active. 

No one knows how long that could be, but it most likely will take longer than the drought itself for the state to recover.

The website also includes a free iBook titled “Climate and Crops.” It’s designed to help farmers understand how weather patterns in the fall and winter can set the stage for insect and disease problems in the next spring and summer. It features sections on corn, cotton, peanuts, soybeans and wheat.  The iBook reports the findings of 25 climate and crop experts from four of the Southeast’s leading research universities, including Auburn, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, and Florida State University.

 

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