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As temperatures fall, farmers still worried about crops

David Gura Jul 9, 2012

As temperatures fall, farmers still worried about crops

David Gura Jul 9, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Two words that are making a lot of Americans feel a lot more comfortable this morning: are the words “cold front.” The heat wave is cooling off. But in parts of the Midwest, that is little consolation to farmers whose crops have been badly damaged by the heat, as well as a drought that’s being called the worst in decades.

Marketplace’s David Gura reports.

David Gura: It’s been hot in Sidney, Iowa, for weeks now. That’s where Darrell McAlexander farms corn and soybeans. Today, it’s supposed to be 85 degrees there.

Darrell McAlexander: The temperatures are just a little bit cooler, but we still need rain.

McAlexander hasn’t given up. He says the plants he grows today are heartier than the ones he used to grow, but McAlexander’s optimism is starting to fade.

McAlexander: Probably we’re looking at a reduction of somewhere around 30 to 40 percent in our yield.

That’s the case across the Midwest.

Fred Below is a plant biologist at the University of Illinois, in Urbana.

Fred Below: We’re at about half the rainfall that we would normally have. We never recharged the soil from a dry winter, and so we were really needing these timely rains in order to get the crop along, and we just simply haven’t had it.

Right now is when corn is supposed to be pollinating.

Corinne Alexander talks to farmers in Indiana regularly. She’s an agricultural economist at Purdue.

Corinne Alexander: Some of them, especially if they’re on sandy soils, which don’t hold any moisture, they’ve already given up their crop.  They’re plowing it under, and they’re turning to their crop insurance — if they have crop insurance.

And Alexander says analysts are comparing this drought to a big one, back in 1988.

Alexander: Which resulted in huge, huge losses in yields for both corn and soybeans.

I’m David Gura, for Marketplace.

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