Dry season could leave farmers’ wallets lighter

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

A dry winter, on top of a dry year, is leaving some area farmers worried and some just waiting to see what happens.

Elida dryland farmer Greg Burris estimated that his crops have received much less than half of what is considered normal precipitation this winter.

In the fall, Burris said, he couldn’t plant wheat early enough in some areas of Roosevelt County. The crop didn’t have time to grow enough to withstand the winter’s high winds and lack of moisture, so he is losing a cash crop he depends on selling in the middle of next year, he said.

“A farmer just gets one or two paychecks a year,” Burris said.

In addition, farmers need to control the blowing soil by plowing, but doing the job properly requires moisture. To make matters worse, Burris said he hasn’t been able to get much grazing use from his land this year, either.

Ricky Lockmiller, who farms northwest of Clovis, also said the winter has been dry. However, a wet fall for him has kept the current lack of moisture from affecting his crops too much, yet.

“We’re going to have to go to watering wheat if we don’t get some snow before long,” Lockmiller said.

About a foot of snow or a couple of inches of rain at least would be ideal, and the sooner the better, he said.

Burris said he is very concerned about the situation. A weak milo harvest, also partly due to lack of moisture, and high fuel costs earlier in the year add to the stress.

With no cash crops, Burris said, a farmer’s pocketbook eventually begins to suffer. Producers can live off the equity built up in their land for a while, but that eventually dries up and it’s hard to find financing to continue farming, he said.

As for Lockmiller’s farm, half is dryland, and the rest is irrigated. If the area doesn’t receive the necessary precipitation, he said, the dryland production will suffer and irrigating the rest will drive expenses up.

“Right now, I’m not worried a whole lot, yet,” Lockmiller said.

The farmer said he wouldn’t be too concerned unless the dryness continued until February.

Houston Lee, who farms near Floyd, agreed the winter is dry, and said his wheat needs rain. He said he isn’t worried about his finances now, but he doesn’t know what the economy will do.

If the weather remains dry, Lee said, he plans to plant haygrazer later, after July. If his land gets precipitation by the first of May, he intends to grow milo and possibly a little cotton.

“Sometimes it doesn’t rain in time to plant the haygrazer, and then you got to wait until September to plant wheat again,” Lee said.

The farmer may raise other crops as well.

If the weather continues to be dry, Burris said, he might have to diversify his crops and cut corners to make ends meet. In the ideal situation, he said, the area would get enough rain or snow to replenish underground moisture, help the current wheat crop and prepare the land for the next planting.

“Being in dryland, you just have to wait for the moisture sometimes to see what you can do and what you want to do,” Burris said.