CADILLAC — It’s been a picturesque summer in many ways, with clear skies and plenty of warmth … too much of both, as far as Osceola County farmers are concerned.
Exceptionally dry conditions have persisted throughout most the summer, affecting growth of hay and beginning to stunt corn.
Michigan State University Grazing and Crop Management Educator Jerry Lindquist said since April 1 — the beginning of the growing season — 8 inches of rain has fallen in the area, which is 4 inches less than a typical year.
Lindquist said the area also has experienced 7 percent above-average heat units, which coupled with the dryness, are causing crops to wilt and die.
Spotty rainfall throughout the area has blessed some farmers but left others wanting. Particularly dry is the area between McBain and Tustin, Lindquist said.
The second cutting of hay yielded about 75 percent less than a typical harvest, and Lindquist said the third cutting also is expected to be affected by dry conditions.
Corn is still growing, but without additional moisture to fill out the ears, farmers could see 25-50 percent less-than-average harvests later this year.
What this means is that some farmers will be forced to either buy additional feed for their livestock or sell animals.
Either option would impact the bottom line for farmers, many of whom already are struggling to make ends meet due to poor market conditions and the ongoing tariff war.
“It’s just going to them further in the hole,” Lindquist said.
Some farmers are able to water their crops with irrigation systems, but Lindquist said only about 20 percent of farmers use these machines, which cost money and manpower.
Osceola County farmer Bob Lee is able to irrigate his crops but for the last 2-3 years, he hasn’t used his equipment due to the labor costs it requires.
Making matters even worse, this year has been the absence of dew at night, which tends to “refresh‘ crops even when it’s dry during the day, Lee said.
In recent years, Lee said he’s grown increasingly concerned about the future of agriculture, especially for his children, who will be taking over his operations when he retires.
“A lot of people are very frustrated right now,‘ Lee said. “They have to keep asking themselves, ‘how long do we want to continue to burn equity to do something you love doing?’ We’ve lost quite a few (farmers). Others are on the edge right now.‘
Although his second harvest was about 40 percent less than it normally is, Lee is hoping rains will come fairly soon so he doesn’t have to buy extra feed or sell any of his cattle.
“I’m the eternal optimist,‘ Lee said.
“We need about 2 inches of rain in the next 10 days to salvage the growing season,” Lindquist said.