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Drought damage is likely to continue

Many vegetable gardens are gone. Farmers are having to feed their cattle and horses hay because pastures are dry. And without significant rainfall in July, August and September, there will be no hay crop this year, Charles "Wormy" Newton, the owner of McDuffie Feed, Seed & Fertilizer says.

All that despite reports of up to 3 inches of rain in the thunderstorms that blew through McDuffie County the night of June 9.

"Yards is dying; trees is dying; bushes in the yard are dying; azaleas are dying. It's probably as bad as it's ever been," Newton said in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror on the effects of this summer's drought.

It's not likely to change soon, state Climatologist David Stooksbury said in an article in last week's Mirror.

"Through at least the middle of August, most of Georgia will likely be warmer and drier than usual," he said.

Newton said he had 3 inches of rain from the June 9 storm at his home in Belle Meade subdivision. But at his farm four miles away, there was almost no rain.

"The dry-land corn is gone, and if we don't have some substantial rain starting in July, August and September there'll be no hay for people to buy," Newton said. "None."

He said some farmers are already feeding their cattle and horses hay.

"Pastures are so dry that they're going to have to feed hay when they don't never feed hay this time of year."

He said the hay he is selling now was cut last year.

Rick Smith, county coordinator for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, said he has seen some cut hay in recent weeks but can't vouch for the quality of it.

"Some of the hay I've seen on the ground seems a little stemmy," he said.

He said he cannot recall sending any hay samples, which analyze the quality.

"If I know the quality of the hay, I know what's lacking. I know what needs to be supplemented on top of that," Smith said.

Corn is not an option for feed, Newton said, because the use of ethanol in gasoline has driven up the price.

"Corn's out of reach," he said. "It's almost $9 a bushel because of this ethanol mess that the government's got us in.

"People can't afford to buy seed because they're putting all the corn into the gas."

As a result, Newton said, cattle are flooding the market.

"The price on cows and calves in the last two weeks has fallen off 40 cents a pound due to the drought," he said.

Gardens that aren't irrigated have dried up, he said.

"It's been so hot that the bees cannot pollinate the tomatoes, the cucumbers and the squash and stuff. The gardens can't take it."

He said bees can't pollinate if the temperature is above 95 degrees.

Lawns, of course, are faring no better.

"A lot of people's grass is dead, and it ain't going to come back this year," Newton said.

Smith agreed but offered a bit of consolation.

"If ... your yard looks bad, really the answer is to be satisfied that your neighbor's yard probably looks about the same," he said. "Mother Nature demands patience."

Smith said the effects on timber are harder to gauge because trees don't immediately show signs of stress from drought.

"There's just going to be a little less growth," he said, noting that smaller rings in cut timber are signs of drought years.

Newton said he is trying to help people cope by reducing his prices on feed.

"We should have the cheapest prices in the state," he said.

"Tell 'em we're all praying for rain at McDuffie Feed and Seed."

Web posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011

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