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FARM SCENE: Drought Produces Bumper Crop of Grasshoppers

July 25, 1996

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ It’s enough to make a farmer hopping mad.

First, the drought withers the crops. Then it’s blamed for an overabundance of grasshoppers that destroy anything that grows.

Entomologists say grasshoppers are causing more problems than usual this summer, particularly in central Texas.

Grasshoppers feed on grass, weeds or anything that is still green. In areas where there has been little rain they are roaming in search of food, denuding the landscape of anything edible.

``There’s just no letup unless something unexpected stops them,″ said Texas A&M entomologist Carl Patrick. ``I’m afraid it could be a long summer for those areas currently having problems.″

There’s not much farmers can do about the grasshoppers.

``Droughts come in cycles, and if they last long enough you will have a grasshopper problem,″ said Patrick. ``Unfortunately, the best thing to do at this stage is wait and hope it rains _ or start hoping for an early freeze.″


REXBURG, Idaho (AP) _ Prices for Idaho’s No. 1 commodity have been in a tailspin for the past month as the marketing year for the 1995 potato crop comes to a close.

The market has dropped by half or more, leaving growers who were waiting to cash in on typically strong year-end prices coming up short. Many are blaming the weak market on federal storage estimates.

``The USDA numbers were wrong,″ one shipper said. ``We had more potatoes than they said.″

Since late January, the market had been running at $8 or $9 per hundred pounds, and some growers calculated that the price would move even higher in late spring and summer as the supply dwindled toward the marketing year’s end on July 31.

One shipper said too many farmers turned down the nearly double-digit prices in January and February, adding to those who have traditionally waited until late in the season to sell, so that supplies this summer and late spring pushed prices to under $5 a hundredweight for top-quality potatoes.

Industry officials say the Idaho market is already feeling the impact of the 1996 crop harvest in California and Washington, and prospects for this season’s crop were limited because growers have planted a record-tying 410,000 acres.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Tennessee cattle producers, facing the lowest cattle prices since 1978, are worried about survival.

``Those operating on borrowed money may not be able to withstand the low prices,″ said Emmit Rawls of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service.

Even so, Rawls said, Tennessee is more fortunate than some cattle-growing areas because many producers are part-time farmers who hold off-the-farm jobs or have other agricultural enterprises.

Cattle prices have been declining mainly because of higher feed-grain prices, Rawls said. Most Tennessee cattle farmers sell to buyers who feed the cattle to market weight.

``When the grain they feed the cattle is expensive, they can’t afford to pay producers as much for cattle,″ he said.

The U.S. cattle industry’s biggest inventory since 1990 is another factor contributing to low farm and retail prices. Retail prices bottomed out in April. The inventory probably will peak in January and begin declining.

Ending the slump, Rawls says, will require a large corn crop, a smaller herd and more exports.

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