Drought and Heat Takes a Toll on Florida's Crops

By: Vanessa Nguyen Email
By: Vanessa Nguyen Email

Jackson County, Florida --

Some Jackson County farmers are calling the cotton and peanut crops of 2010 the worst they’ve ever seen, and they are blaming the weather; specifically, the lack of rain and the abundance of heat.

Peanut farmers should be harvesting a bumper crop right now, but the hot, dry weather conditions have severely affected the year’s crop.

"2010 has been a very challenging year for agriculture in Jackson County, we're looking at about a 35 to 40% yield reduction on dry land peanuts and dry land cotton,” said Jeff Pittman, a 4th generation farmer. Pittman said he hadn’t seen conditions like this since 1980.

The 95-degree heat combined with the record low rainfall levels are also affecting the quality of their crops, and they are having to spend more money to offset the loss.

"The increase of inputs on the irrigated crops have been about a 25 to 30% increase on those crops."

Pittman hasn’t been as affected as smaller farms, because his 73-hundred acres stretches from Jackson County into Alabama.

"When you are stretched across 40, 50 miles, when you miss the rain on some farms, you seem to pick it up on other farms."

Crops aren’t the only thing impacted by the drought conditions.

"In the last couple of weeks, we started to pick up some small fires, right now this is the biggest fire we have going," said Aaron Kincaid, Division of Forestry Supervisor.

"But because of the drought, the duff layer and all the vegetation dried out to the point that it's burning now."

He says it could take several inches of rain just to mitigate the fire.

"If we don't get any moisture (and) if we get the ignitions, it's just a matter of time we're going to have a lot more fires."

Forestry officials are asking people to avoid campfires and barbecue grills until conditions improve.

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