Farmers see big losses as they harvest crops

Much of Wisconsin hit hard by drought
Farmers see big losses as they harvest crops

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday shows almost all of Wisconsin is either abnormally dry or in a drought, and the dry weather is hurting southern Wisconsin farmers.

As they start harvesting, those farmers are getting a clearer picture of how bad the drought has been for their crops.

Some farmers, such as Brian Brown, said they have lost most of their crop.

Brown owns Sunburst Dairy Farm, which has 500 cattle, but a fungus has destroyed 220 acres of Brown’s corn crop, which he started harvesting over the weekend.

If farmers recover anything, officials said they will only salvage about 30 perfect of their normal crop.

“I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything this severe on our farm here,” said Brown, who used irrigation to salvage 80 acres.

Still, he said that’s not enough to feed his 500 dairy cattle that each eat 120 pounds of food a day.

“We have to turn around and buy replacement products or feed to replace what we’re not going to get for yield and, looking nationally, it’s the same situation,” said Brown.

The difficult situation for farmers stems from a wet spring, followed by a dry summer. The June Drought Monitor showed little or no impact, a stark contrast three months later when most of Wisconsin is in a severe drought.

As for Brown and Sunburst Dairy Farm, he’ll cut his losses and plans to plant an emergency grass-type crop in the fall that he can harvest in May. He said crop insurance will help.

Farmers see big losses as they harvest crops

Brian said, “For us, it’s kind of like going to the grocery store and not seeing any bread on the shelves, or maybe a couple loaves when you’re used to seeing the shelf full. So if you could imagine it that way, it’s just not the product to be gotten.”

University of Wisconsin Extension officials reported that the corn is the crop hardest hit, while alfalfa is down from an average five tons a year to just one to two tons an acre. Soybeans seem to have survived thanks to August rains.