Farmers face tough times after drought

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 1999

MONTEREY, La. – J.W. Calhoun has seen a lot of changes in his 42 years of farming – but you wouldn’t know it from this year’s cotton prices. &uot;Cotton prices are about what they were when I graduated high school in 1952,&uot; said Calhoun, who grows cotton and soybeans along Louisiana 907.

&uot;It always appalls me that the economy is booming and the farmers are going bust. You can make two bales of cotton per acre and still lose money. I guess the farmer is just circulating the money – we’re not keeping any.&uot;

Like most farmers, Calhoun has suffered the effects of a drought this year. He’s kept detailed weather calendars since 1957, carefully marking the temperatures and amount of rainfall on his property each year. The last three years have been dry ones.

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&uot;This August was drier and hotter than August of 1998,&uot; Calhoun said.

Calhoun said farmers were anticipating a good year for crops until the drought set in around mid-July. &uot;That blew the crops out the window,&uot; he said.

Calhoun will be among many farmers who will lose money on this year’s crop.

&uot;I don’t know that I would use the word devastating, but we’re definitely going to be short on what we needed to make,&uot; he said.

The corn crop around Calhoun Bend has had what Calhoun calls a mediocre yield: 120 bushels per acre.

In a good year, he would see 150 bushels per acre. Calhoun said his cotton yield is off by about one half to three-quarters of a bale per acre. That loss of income adds up quickly when you farm 44 acres.

Soybean yields in his area have varied significantly depending on where the crops were planted. Near Wiseville, yields have been as high as 51 bushels per acre while a neighbor of Calhoun’s cut only 21 bushels per acre.

&uot;It’s just a matter of rainfall,&uot; he said.

Calhoun said a high pressure system moved over the Miss-Lou in mid-July which lowered rainfall and raised temperatures, contributing to the drought conditions. If it wasn’t the weather threatening crop production, it’s the economy threatening produce prices, he said.