It just keeps getting worse. First there was the late freeze, then the drought, and now a killer heat wave said to be responsible for 49 deaths is taking a further toll on crops. Here's a roundup...
Heat, drought take toll on N.E. Mississippi crops:
[Farmer Doug] Mitchell said this year's drought and heat are the worst since his father started the farm in 1963. The farm has received less than 20 inches of rain this year. And, the average high temperature for August has been 101 degrees.
"What we thought was going to be a record soybean crop three weeks ago, now we might not even be having one," said [Charlie Stokes, an area agronomy agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service], who is responsible for eight Northeast Mississippi counties. "It's gotten pretty bad."
The heat follows a cold beginning to the year for farmers. A harsh Easter Sunday freeze was the bellwether of the growing season, killing the fruit-producing blossoms of apples and peaches and freezing grapes, strawberries and blueberries. North Carolina's peach and apple crops will be the lowest since 1955, state agriculture officials said.
Sizzling weather only exaggerated the demise of corn, hay and other row crops. With six days of extreme heat last week and the threat of more 100-degree days to follow, farmers said what corn they have is now baking in the fields, forcing them to harvest early or experience an even larger loss.
The troubles extend statewide, mainly because of the drought. In the mountains, parts of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties remain in an extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor of North Carolina. The remaining mountain counties are in severe drought.
Production of corn, hay, apples, peaches, grapes and soybeans is down in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"It's quickly turning into a bad year for many North Carolina crops," Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. "The damage caused by the Easter freeze is being magnified by the extreme heat and drought. And if we don't get some rain soon, the situation is only going to get worse."
Sonny Zorn, a retired Denmark farmer and agriculture teacher, said producers who borrowed to plant their crops this year are going to suffer when the loans come due and the crops bring less or fail because of the drought.
According to trade publications such as "Farm Journal," livestock producers can expect lower profit for their products because of high feed cost, low grain yields and premium hay prices.
Our long stretch of hot, dry weather is adding to an already hard year for farmers in Kentuckiana. Not having enough rain has made it tough to take care of crops and feed the livestock. It's been so hard, some farmers have had to skip the Kentucky State Fair this year. WAVE 3's Shayla Reaves caught up with one woman who knows this hardship first hand.
"This time, it's just terrible. I don't know how to explain it. I've never seen anything like this," says Shannon Nutter of Nutter Dairy Farms.
"I just like growin' stuff."
Bill Terry, 72, says it again, sitting with his wife, Shirley, on the back porch of their Chalybeate Springs home, 12 acres crammed with produce and flowers surrounding him, a glass of iced tea in his hand.
The repetition is an effort at explanation, a declaration of why he's not crying. A pronouncement that notwithstanding a late freeze that erased his early labors, a drought that starved a second planting and heat that wiped out a third, he's trying again next year.
For 10 days its been hot enough to stretch a concrete bridge by nearly an inch, hot enough to slow a dairy cow's milk production by a quarter and hot enough to all but stop the maturation of a tomato on the vine.
On Saturday, Huntsville nearly broke a local record, set in 1952, for the most consecutive days with a high above 100 degrees. "We missed it by a degree," said Mike Richter, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
This had already been a trying year for local farmers, who had lost blueberries, peaches and apples to a late freeze. A summer drought followed by intense heat just about wiped out several other crops, said Lambert, who has had to look to Georgia and South Carolina for cucumbers, squash and corn.
Extreme drought has parched Tennessee's crops, killed its lawns and endangered its livestock and outdoor pets. Creeks have run dry, water tables have dropped and tap water in some communities tastes like the algae that is blooming in the shrunken Cumberland River.
Ninety-one percent of Tennessee has been parched by extreme drought, suffering major crop and pasture losses and widespread water shortages or restrictions. A growing area of the state, particularly the southern agricultural counties, is now in an exceptional drought emergency, facing devastating crop losses and widespread water emergencies as reservoirs, streams and wells dry up.
And the list goes on and on.
How hot is it?
It's so hot, TVA had to shut down a nuclear power reactor at Browns Ferry due to unacceptably high water temperatures in the Tennessee River caused by intake water used to cool the reactor core being discharged back into the river.
Or as we say down here in the South, "it's hotter than a two dollar pistol."