Central NY farmers worry about dry weather

Jul 17, 2012

New York isn't officially in a drought, but it's certainly been a dry summer so far in upstate New York.  Farmers aren't pushing the panic button just yet, but they are watching the skies.

Eric Behling grows apples and other fruits in his orchard in Mexico, New York.  And he's using irrigation to help his crops make it through a dry mid-July.

"We try to get at least six gallons per tree per week," said Behling. "But if we don't get rain soon a lot of our ponds are getting to where we might last another week without rain, and then we're out of water."

At that point, he says, they prioritize, using what water they have on more tender trees.

"We keep irrigating those crops we need to keep alive.  Our younger trees that we just planted this year, they have a small root system on them," Behling said.

Irrigation isn't an option for some farmers. For example the Finndale dairy farm in Holland Patent.  Debbie Finn is concerned about the farm's investment in corn for feed for the cows.

"Our fields are so far from the farms. We have to travel 15 miles to do that. So we are just hoping the rain comes."

While they wait, these farmers joke about things like rain dances. But the bottom line is, if this dry weather holds up, it'll hit them in the pocketbook. And ultimately consumers will pay for this hot dry summer.

"Those people who have ample irrigation will benefit, but they'll have to raise their prices," said Behling.

Behling says it's simply costing farmers more to keep up with the lack of rain by irrigating their crops.

"I would dare say at least another 30-percent more on whatever you were paying earlier this year when there was ample irrigation or over last year," the farmer said.

Behling says it's the cost of fuel and the labor of irrigation that will force farmers to raise their prices.