WAUNAKEE, Wis. - As the drought continues, Wisconsin's corn crop remains in sad shape.
In its weekly crop progress report for Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that 43 percent of the state's corn crop is in very poor or poor condition, with just 31 percent rated as good to excellent. Hay yields are coming up short due to a lack of moisture, plus insects.
Only 23 percent of the state's soil has adequate moisture, with 46 percent of the state very short.
Ninety-nine percent of the soil in south-central Wisconsin is rated short or very short.
Forty-five percent of the corn in the 18 states that planted the most corn acreage last year is in very poor to poor condition as the drought continues across most of the Midwest.
More than 400 farmers were asking questions about how to deal with the drought at two meetings in southern Wisconsin Monday.
About 250 farmers filled a room at Rex's Innkeeper in Waunakee to talk to agriculture extension specialists, crop insurance agents and even lawyers about their crop concerns.
The event was organized by the Wisconsin Corn Growers and Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board to try to help farmers get answers about everything from what to grow later this year if they have to chop corn to what to do if they have contracts for their crops.
"With farming in general nothing is ever guaranteed, and I think most of us realize that," said Dan Roe, president of the Wisconsin Soybean Association. "But we're just trying to come up with answers of how we can survive another year."
A meeting Monday morning in Janesville drew 160 farmers, and the group said it may have to hold more if the drought area continues to expand northward.
Waunakee farmer Jack Meffert said he came to the meeting to learn more about what assistance would be available for farmers who would likely lose most of their crops this year. At least half of his 200 acres of corn are expected to be a loss, and he needs more hay to feed cattle through the winter. He said he believes that's the greatest concern of the drought at this point.
"To assist farmers so they don't lose everything, so they can get enough feed to keep going," said Meffert. "That's what has to happen."
As far as help for farmers, Gov. Scott Walker announced the state would open 11,500 acres of public lands to livestock grazing or a single cutting of hay to try to get more feed to farmers in need. The state and farmers groups said they're still working to try to figure out additional solutions for that part of this drought problem.
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