The excessive heat and drought in Kentucky this summer have drawn natural disaster area designations for seven counties. Surrounding counties are also affected as well as two counties each in Indiana and Tennessee.
While the recent rain in our listening area is certainly a welcome sight for farmers, it comes too late to save the crops that have already been devastated by the drought. Still, WKU agriculture professor Todd Willian says the rainfall could help crops that are harvested later in the year, like soybeans.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's office says another 68 counties have been declared primary disaster areas due to damage from drought. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the declaration, which also qualifies 22 contiguous counties for assistance.
The drought that has impacted so many parts of region is also presenting major challenges to livestock producers. The lack of corn crop this year has led to higher feed prices for cattle, and that is forcing livestock producers into a difficult decision: do they sell their cattle now at a loss, or hold on to those animals in hopes of getting better prices down the road?
The brutal weather this summer throughout the Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee region is leading to dire consequences for farmers and consumers. Some corn farmers in southern and western Kentucky have had almost all of their crop wiped out this season. That has many agriculture experts predicting both short and long term effects on commodity and food prices throughout the region.
A combination of scorching heat and drought is starting to raise anxiety levels about water supplies in some parts of Kentucky as demand grows to keep lawns green and gardens producing. The state says no water systems are experiencing supply shortages. But some communities are asking residents to voluntarily conserve water for non-essential uses such as washing vehicles and watering lawns and gardens.
State Climatologist Dr. Stuart Foster of the Kentucky Climate Center at WKU has been checking the dry conditions in several parts of Kentucky. He says the drought this year is somewhat similar to one that occurred in 2007, but it could eventually be compared to worse droughts if the dry weather continues.
Farmers in some portions of western Kentucky could be facing a tough year if dry weather continues. Officials say the drought has been upgraded from "severe" to "extreme" in some areas.
Henderson County Extension Agent Mike Smith told the Henderson Gleaner that farmers could see losses of up to 40 percent in fields. Smith says that means the crop producers might make enough to cover expenses, but will make little or no profit.
What a difference a year makes. Last year was the wettest on record across Kentucky going back to 1895. Many areas of the commonwealth that experienced widespread flooding last year are now in drought.