Farmers: we need more rain to beat the drought

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT)-- We're in the middle of a drought. Farmers say Tuesday's rain, especially because of how sporadic it was, isn't enough to end it.

Jeff Webster of F&W Farms in New Hope has been farming for 35 years. He loves watching his crops grow, and feels fortunate to do what he loves to provide for his family. But he's learned an important lesson along the way: "Farming is stressful. We do not control the prices, and we certainly do not control the weather," he explained.

Webster said both the market and the drought are working against him this season, especially with his corn crop. He believes it's the same for other farmers across the county. The market is already tough, and without enough rain, he said it's certain farmers will be seeing losses.

"It's too early for us to diagnose how much we've lost, but there's definitely been a loss in production," he commented. "Dry weather shrivels the corn, and the heat."

He said that the way his corn is growing right now in its reproductive stage, it needs all the moisture it can get. "We need probably three inches of water a week."  We asked him how much rain his farm has seen in New Hope and he said, "We've probably had less than an inch a week up to this point."

He's thankful for Tuesday's rain because it gave them 1 1/2 inches in one day, something that perked up his crops significantly.

"It's very stressful," he said, "because this is our living."

Firefighters also fight it stressful being in drought conditions, and caution you that for certain counties there are burn bans in effect.

The Alabama Forestry Commission website explains which counties:

To assist in meeting regional air quality standards the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) implements summer open burning bans from May 1st thru October 31st in twelve Alabama counties: Baldwin, DeKalb, Etowah, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Morgan, Shelby, Russell and Talladega Counties.

"Don't burn, because of the burn ban but on top of that, the drought will make it so if it gets away, it can spread rapidly with the wind," explained Blake Mathis, communications officer for Monrovia Fire/Rescue.

He said that was especially apparent on July 4, when crews dealt with field fires from fireworks.

"The embers were coming down, hitting the dry grass, dry brush, yards, fields, you name it. Probably in a matter of 3 or 4 hours there were about a dozen field or grass fires throughout the county," he summarized.

For now, farmers like Webster and firefighters like Mathis, will hope the clouds roll back in and wait on the next rain, hoping it leads to an end to the current problems.

"It's tough, but it's all I ever wanted to do," Webster said about farming. "I've seen it this bad, and probably seen it worse. But we've been blessed to survive those years so hopefully we'll survive these."