Local farmers still struggling after heavy rains
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jun 16, 2013 | 2733 views |  0 comments | 144 144 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Greg Whiting of SD Walker Farms near Wellington with just some of the many trees and plants that are well behind in planting because fields are too wet to operate equipment. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Greg Whiting of SD Walker Farms near Wellington with just some of the many trees and plants that are well behind in planting because fields are too wet to operate equipment. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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At SD Walker Nursery Farms in Wellington recently were thousands of trees, sitting in storage.

The young trees would normally have been planted more than a month ago.

"That's not too good for future harvesting ... it cuts back on growing time," said Greg Whiting, nursery manager for SD Walker. "The rain has been a hindrance."

Alabama is more than 11 inches above its normal rainfall amount for this time of year, which has slowed farming in the state in recent months, agriculture experts say. According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Alabama field office, farming for much of state has improved, but several Calhoun County farmers are still struggling to recover.

"We've had to re-plant most of our cotton ... about two thirds of it," said Keith Bryant, an Alexandria farmer. "We got it planted and the rain just flooded everything out."

The figures, released last week, show that the amount of crops planted in the state this year is near what was planted the same period last year and are in mostly good condition. For instance, 98 percent of the state's corn was planted during the week of June 9 — slightly less than the 100 percent planted during the same time last year. Also, about 68 percent of the state's corn crop was rated as being in good condition during the week of June 9. Only 58 percent of the state's corn crop was rated in good condition during the same week last year.

The state's corn crop is a far cry from what it was in April, when rainfall exceeded normal levels. The data shows 70 percent of the state's corn was planted the week of April 28 — far less than the 92 percent of corn planted during the same time last year.

Meanwhile, 98 percent of the state's cotton was planted during the week of June 9, a small decrease from the 100 percent planted during the same period last year. About 63 percent of the state's cotton crop was rated as being in good condition during the week of June 9. The state's cotton crop had a 68 percent good rating during the same week last year.

Similar to corn, 15 percent of the state's cotton was planted the week of April 28, a decrease from the 23 percent planted the same time last year.

"It looks like things are getting back to where they were before the rains," said Bill Weaver, director of the Alabama field office for the Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. "And the crops really look good, those that are in the ground."

Weaver said Alabama farmers will continue to do better this year as temperatures rise.

Bryant said some good hot weather is coming up that should help, and he still has strong hopes that his cotton crops will still produce strong yields this year.

"We just hope we don't have an early frost on this cotton," Bryant said.

Whiting said the rain has hurt his company's future harvests, but has actually helped the harvest this year. SD Walker is a wholesale grower of trees for landscapers.

"The rain has been a two-sided coin ... it has allowed us to extend our digging season and not run irrigation," Whiting said. "But one of the biggest struggles we've had is we can't get in the field and plant."

Max Runge, extension economist at Auburn University, said the heavy rains have had varying results on farming in the state.

"It's mixed depending on where you are — in localized areas there has been too much rain," Runge said. "Some are behind on planting corn and cotton has to catch up."

However, Alabama farmers should still see some decent yields this year, barring any major weather anomalies, Runge said.

"Many farmers are very optimistic that this will be a pretty good year," Runge said. "Most producers would rather have too much rain than not enough."

Carol Kemp, owner of Rusty Rock Greenhouses in White Plains, said the extra rain and overcast weather has hurt her plant production this year.

"The rain is really impacting our business," Kemp said. "It put spring a little further behind."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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