Farmers have suffered a one-two punch, says U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga) on his visit to the family farm of Philip and Sandy Moore in Westport.
The freshman senator is on a 38-county tour during the August recess of Congress. He plans a visit to Iraq later this month. He said he’s a “hands-on” guy who likes to meet the people “where they are”.
Speaking from a podium with a devastated corn crop as a backdrop and standing in a sweltering 98-degree heat, Corker pledged to help Tennessee farmers. Farmers suffered a one-two punch following a late freeze that destroyed crops, which were replanted only to suffer from a statewide drought, the worst since 1941. The Department of Agriculture declared all of Tennessee’s 95 counties as a disaster area. It follows a similar declaration following an April freeze that devastated emerging crops of corn and wheat.
Corker said the U.S. government has offered low interest loans to effected farmers. However, he notes that the loans just extend the misery of crop failures into future loan payments. He said it is imperative for the U.S. keep its food supply domestically produced and safe. He noted the recent problems with food coming from China. The drought not only affects crops and livestock. Corker told of one dairy farmer who liquidated his entire herd due to the drought. The senator said the drought conditions at the Moore farm were more severe than what he saw previously at an East Tennessee farm.
Philip, Sandy, Colton, and Trevor Moore speak with Senator Corker about crop damage. The senator visited the Moore family farm in Westport on Monday afternoon to see first-hand the damage.
Corn crops in West Tennessee will suffer from low yields. Philip Moore said his crop has not seen rain in a month. The corn stalks are exhausting any remaining energy to fill the ear of corn. A rain now would be too little, too late for the corn crop. And any heavy rains or high winds will simply topple the already weakened stalk. But more bad news is on the horizon. The developing soybean and cotton crops are also wilting under the mixture of high heat and drought. “There’s no rain in the foreseeable future,” said Moore. The young farmer said he had banked this year’s production on corn. Earlier this year, he replanted 1,250 acres of corn following the April freeze. In production now, he has 2,500 acres of corn and 2,000 acres of beans. Because of the terrain and the small acreage of each individual field, Moore said he is unable to irrigate his land.
Corn commodity prices offered great promise for being high this year, in part, because of the increased production of corn-based ethanol. However, the dream of higher profits was dashed from the freeze and drought.
Steve Burgess, agriculture extension agent for Carroll County said corn is estimated to produce 100 bushels per acre, down from the average of 130 to 140 bushels per acre. Carroll County has a rainfall deficit of 16 inches in 2007. “Soybeans are really hurting,” said Burgess. The beans are blooming, setting pods, but it takes moisture for the beans to fill those pods.
Cotton has grown and developed good bolls. However, the smaller bolls are being shed. Burgess is concerned about the cotton without a rain. “The dry weather and heat are taking a lot out of the crops,” said Burgess.
Robert Chandler of R&R Farms in McKenzie is also feeling the strain of no rain. He and brother, Ricky, have 4,000 acres of row crops including 1,800 acres of cotton, 1,800 acres of corn, and 400 acres of soybeans. In two to three weeks, Chandler said he will harvest his corn. “This last week has been hard on the corn,” said Robert. An early crop of corn was destroyed by the April freeze. Robert said he was lucky he only had a few acres of corn planted at the time of the freeze.
The Monday event was sponsored in part by the Tennessee Farm Bureau