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Ohio farmers concerned over hot, dry conditions

Jul. 06, 2012 @ 10:06 PM

CINCINNATI -- While farmer John Hoffman hopes forecasts of more hot temperatures and extremely dry weather across Ohio the next few weeks will change, he doesn't hold out a lot of hope for much of his corn crop. And he's not alone.

Concerns are growing among Ohio's farmers as abnormally dry conditions and triple-digit temperatures scorch already parched fields, stunting much of the corn and soybean crops. Sweltering temperatures near 100 or above and lack of rainfall have farmers projecting reduced yields that eventually could mean higher consumer prices. With no relief in sight, a state Drought Assessment Committee was meeting Friday to begin planning Ohio's response in a state where food and agriculture form the top industry.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, which is based on climate indicators submitted by federal, state and local officials, shows that more of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any time in the monitor's 12-year history, according to National Drought Mitigation Center officials at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The monitor this week classified a few counties in northwest Ohio under severe drought conditions and most of the state in moderate drought, with other areas abnormally dry. In a report for the week ending July 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 26 percent of Ohio's corn crop and 30 percent of its soybeans in poor or very poor condition.

"Our corn crop is a huge concern," said Hoffman, who raises the state's top two crops, along with wheat, on about 2,500 acres in south-central Ohio's Pickaway County. "Rain could still help, but much of the damage is already done."

Hoffman currently expects about a 35 percent to 50 percent reduction in his corn yield, but says it's too soon to say how much consumers might be affected.

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