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Drought Threatens 2013 Crops

Updated: Friday, December 14 2012, 07:44 PM EST

After a too-hot summer, a too-dry fall and a respite in October, now Western North Carolina is in the middle of a drought again, with Polk County receiving just a tenth of its normal rainfall in November.

"We are glued to the weather station," said Rosa Panchyshyn who owns Achin' Back Acres farm with her husband and works at the Mill Spring Agricultural Center's food coop.

"We're trying to hold the prices, but I can't predict," said Panchyshyn. "We may have to go up depending on our source of hay."

Less rain right now is immediately threatening meat prices. If winter grass doesn't grow, livestock farmers like Panchyshyn need to buy hay, which increases the overhead costs, creating a price bump consumers would see by summer.

Polk County Agriculture Economic Development Director Lynn Sprague says farming is the largest engine driving nearly every mountain county.

"Stress from a drought, stress from now, stress from a redrought - we haven't gotten our regrowth," Sprague says, explaining how farmers are already at a disadvantage going into 2013 after a hard weather year. "There is no 'fresh start'."

Right now, it's early enough in the winter that it could still rain enough for crops planted in the spring to be okay. But time is ticking.

"It just keeps draining more and more out of the soil, so in the spring, when you do get rain, most it will just run off before it soaks in," said Rosa's husband Hank.

"Looking towards the spring, right now it's just like every year," says Sprague. "A farmer plants his crop and then doesn't know what he's really fighting until this starts to happen."

By Ashlea Surles
Follow Ashlea on Twitter @AshleaSurles

Drought Threatens 2013 Crops

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