Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Uncooperative Weather Is Costing Georgia's Farmers Too Little, Too Late Rain May Do More Harm Than Good

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Uncooperative Weather Is Costing Georgia's Farmers Too Little, Too Late Rain May Do More Harm Than Good

Article excerpt

The rain that fell during the weekend in Southeast Georgia came too late to help drought-damaged crops and may further impede the cotton harvest, officials said.

"By the middle of September whatever we hope to pick is already there. Basically, it's over," said John Ed Smith, the University of Georgia Agriculture Extension agent in Pierce County.

University of Georgia weather reporting sites recorded 0.82 inches of rain in Alma and far less at most other South Georgia sites. The National Weather Service said Brunswick received 1.79 inches of rain in a 24-hour period that ended at 8 a.m. yesterday.

Because of the prolonged summer drought, the cotton harvest could be cut in half from the typical 750 pounds per acre, Smith said.

"Some growers will argue with me and say I'm too optimistic," he said.

Bacon County Agent Danny Stanaland said the worry now is that the rain will continue too long.

"If it stays cloudy and overcast with no drying, the seed could sprout inside the lint," he said. That reduces the grade of the cotton and its price to farmers, he said.

If forecasts hold true, they have little to worry about. The National Weather Service is predicting rain again today as Tropical Storm Harvey moves from the Gulf of Mexico, across Florida and into the Atlantic. The rain should end by tomorrow as the storm moves northeast.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin was disappointed in that forecast because of its lack of relief for North Georgia, which is suffering severe drought conditions.

"We need a good three or four days [of rain]. I guess the polite thing to say about [the current rain] is too little, too late," Irvin said.

Irvin said the state needs an unusually wet fall, which is typically the driest period of the year, and good winter rains to help replenish soil moisture, groundwater, rivers and farm ponds.

"Last winter was a further deterioration of the water supply," he said.

Although Harvey could help alleviate the effects of a dry 1999 for Northeast Florida, the storm's timing was inopportune for Jacksonville and other regions that are already drenched. The Jacksonville area had only a few days to dry up from Hurricane Floyd's sideswipe last week before rains started Saturday. …

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