Farmers not concerned over dry weather

09/04/07 4:04PM By Ross Sneyd
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(Host) Late summer has been particularly dry in Vermont this year. Rainfall in August alone was two-and-a-half inches below normal.

But as VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, experts say there's little reason for concern.

(Sneyd) By this time of year, the corn crop is mature and some of it is even being harvested.

The same thing goes for hay. Farmers may be hoping to get one last cutting in the barn, but the best crop comes earlier in the summer.

So farmers are like a lot of weather-dependent businesses.

A relatively dry August isn't going to make or break them. But it can make a challenging industry even a little more trying.

That's what life has been like for Carl Phelps, who runs Miller Hill Farm in Sudbury.

(Phelps) "A good year for hay and not a great year for pastures. The cows are kind of hungry. They're looking around wondering when the grass is going to grow again."

(Sneyd) Miller Hill Farm also raises sheep, but its major crop is trees. Phelps raises almost 3,000 maples and oaks from locally collected seed and then sells the nursery stock.

Trees need a lot of water and he's noticed over the past six weeks or so that it's taking a lot more irrigation to keep them and the surrounding ground wet.

The National Weather Service says Phelps is right about the late-summer dry spell. John Goff is a meteorologist in Burlington.

(Goff) "Well it's been abnormally dry. It has not been in terms of a drought extremely dry. Since about July 20, at least here in Burlington where records are kept, we've had only about an inch and a half of rain. So, in about a six-week time frame, that's certainly below average."

(Sneyd) Still, it's not unusual that late summer turns dry. And this year's dry spell was offset by higher rainfall earlier in the summer.

Goff says it's too early to raise alarms.

(Goff) "Having a wetter earlier part of the summer, just having one dry six to maybe seven-week period is not any cause for concern, at least at this time. Certainly if it were to continue into the winter months and into next spring that would be where the higher concern rate is."

(Sneyd) There's no rain in the forecast until late this week when a front is expected to move into the region.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

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