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Weather still rules the farms

June 5, 1997

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A cold, windy spring is becoming fairer and more pleasant as summer approaches, and upstate New York farmer Tom Van Grillo is grateful. He sounds pained when he talks about how the wind and cold have hurt his plants.

``The wind will just blow so hard that the dirt will pick up, blow across the field and actually cut the young plants,″ said Van Grillo, whose 145-acre, Orange County farm grows lettuce, onions, spinach and pumpkins.

The crops are about two weeks behind schedule because of the unseasonably cool spring, he said. Some crops were damaged; some were even uprooted by the strong winds. And frosty nights weakened some plants.

He is not alone. Farmers from Maine to California have contended with some severe weather this spring. Some examples:

_``We need dry weather now for the sake of our tobacco,″ complained Harry Lillard, a farmer and cattleman in College Grove, Tenn.

Part of the Tennessee cotton crop may have to be replanted. Last year’s cotton was valued at $260 million. Corn planting has been delayed by rain and may require additional herbicides.

_The deadly tornado that ripped through Jarrell, Texas, last week was part of a weather system that produced heavy damage in the central part of the state. Because of the damage, wheat producers are concerned about yields for the rest of the season.

``We are about to be in a world of hurt with the wheat business,″ said James Davis, the Bell County extension agent. ``We could lose the entire wheat crop if things do not turn around pretty quick.″

_In Ohio, seemingly endless spring storms have turned some farmers’ fields into a muddy mess, and that could spell serious trouble for their crops. More than 7 inches of rain fell in eight days on Neil Clark’s 1,800-acre farm outside Findlay. About 40 acres where he grows corn and soybeans are under water.

Steve Maurer, director of the Ohio Farm Service Agency, guessed that up to 25 counties could eventually qualify for emergency federal help.

_After eight consecutive weeks of below-normal temperatures, Iowa farmers are upbeat as June starts on a warm and sunny note. ``We were getting discouraged up here until the weekend. Now it’s looking up,″ said Kurt Grover, who farms near Elma in northern Iowa. ``The beans are up, finally, and the corn is back to a decent color.″

The government’s weekly crop report showed that corn planting is virtually complete in Iowa and soybean planting is 92 percent done. But the young crops were struggling before a warm, sunny weekend.

_In western Maryland, heavy rains have washed away fears of drought among growers after one of the driest springs in memory. Frederick County dairy farmer Franklin Gladhill’s corn, 4 inches tall at best, is the shortest he could recall for early June in more than 40 years of farming.

``It should be almost knee-high by now,″ Gladhill said.

Washington County extension agent Don Schwartz said the welcome rain came too late for farmers already finished with their first cutting of hay. The county’s early alfalfa harvest was nearly 50 percent below normal, causing problems for growers who depend on that first cutting for more than half their annual crop, he said.

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