Lawmakers, Ag Officials, and Farmers Discuss Drought’s Impact

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On the same day lawmakers and local farmers meet to discuss the effect of this year’s drought, agricultural officials with New York State come to the Southern Tier to assess the drought’s damage.

“We looked in the records and I don’t think think we’ve seen a drought this widespread in New York State since maybe 1986, 1987,” said Richard Ball, the NYS Agriculture Commissioner.

For nearly two hours, lawmakers, agriculture officials, and farmers deliberated on the drought’s impact on the farmer’s crops and lives.

Then, lawmakers and agriculture officials got a first hand look at the damage.

“The potatoes, some will yield halfway decent, some of them have been pretty terrible. Probably have a half a crop or even a little less. The kidney beans are about half a crop, it’ll be about the same with corn. It’s going to affect our bottom line,” said John Wallace, who works with Ted R. Wallace Farms in Avoca.

Many other farmers in the region and state can relate to Wallace and his crop numbers this year. Many are expected to lose about half of their crops, especially when it comes to beans, corn, and potatoes.

“The value in the 2012 Ag Census was a $187 million of total crop value. Because of the damage at 50 percent, we are at a $93 million loss at this point,” said Stephanie Mehlenbecker with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Steuben County. That figure is just for Steuben County.

As of now, it’s too late for many crops to bounce back if our area were to receive substantial rains. As of Sept. 6, the U.S. drought monitor listed parts of Steuben and Chemung Counties, as well as all of Schuyler County, as facing ‘Extreme Drought.’

Now, agriculture officials hope this year’s drought can serve as an example to the public about the hardships food producers can be facing at any given time.

“We have to connect the dots better between those of us who produce food and those of us just buy food. And this is a learning moment,a teachable moment. Sometimes there’s hard news on farms and making everyone in New York State aware of that is, I think, a good thing to do,” said Ball.

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