Saturday, November 26, 2022

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CT Farmers Work through Severe Drought Conditions

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Friday, September 2, 2022   

Since early May, much of Connecticut has been in a severe drought, leaving the state's 5,500 farms scrambling to adapt.

Much of the Northeast is seeing drought conditions, ranging from abnormally dry to extreme drought. This leaves farmers working to keep their crops irrigated and cattle fed while still conserving water.

Joan Nichols, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, said some orchards are seeing fruit fall off the trees earlier than expected. She said the drought has been harsh for Connecticut farmers, and not only on their own land.

"If other parts of the region, or even up into eastern Canada, are experiencing drought conditions," she said, "that's going to affect Connecticut farmers because they procure forage, hay, feed, grain from other parts of the region, as well as just within the state and what they can grow."

Droughts of this magnitude lead to higher costs to maintain farms and ensure crops can flourish. Nichols said an underlying message is to buy local, which will help farmers recoup some of their drought-related losses. Milk is one of Connecticut's primary agricultural products, along with hay, alfalfa and corn.

Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt is encouraging farmers to reach out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to report their losses, so they might be eligible for federal emergency loans or crop-insurance payments. These federal programs might not offset all the losses on a farm, but at least can keep it in business.

Hurlburt said the state also pitches in as much as it can, to help counter the unpredictable conditions.

"We can't control the weather. Last year, we had floods that were historic in nature; this year we have droughts that are historic in nature," he said. "But, what we're trying to do is make sure that Connecticut farmers have the tools so that they and their land can best manage these erratic climate conditions."

He added that the state will be implementing some "climate smart" programs to help farmers withstand future droughts and to expect the unexpected.


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