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Farmers Pray For Rain As Hot, Dry Weather Continues With PM-Drought-Lyng, Bjt

June 15, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Farmers in Ohio prayed for rain and their counterparts in Illinois feared a 30 percent drop in crop yield as record-high temperatures aggravated the drought in the nation’s midsection.

About 225 people gathered Tuesday night in a field at the farm of Gerald and Joanne Lowery south of Fostoria in northwest Ohio for a special church service.

The Rev. William Martin of St. Wendelin Roman Catholic Church conducted the interdenominational service as the congregation sat in lawn chairs.

″We think right away who’s the one who gives us the rain. So we go to the Mass for God,″ he said.

Martin shook holy water at the crops in all four directions as he gave a blessing of the field.

Paul Sheeley, 48, who raises corn, soybeans and wheat north of Tiffin, Ohio, said the service ″shows that man upstairs we’re interested in what’s going on.″

″This many people getting together helps. It’s like a little petition, you might say. I can’t afford to lose what I planted,″ Sheeley said.

Sheeley said one-third of his corn crops did not break through the ground because of a lack of moisture.

The next two weeks are considered a critical growing period for Midwestern crops, and without rainfall approaching its normal 4 inches in June, crop yields will suffer, farm experts say.

Farm yields could drop up to 30 percent in Illinois if the 3-week-old drought there continues, said Terry Francl, an economist with the American Farm Bureau in Park Ridge, Ill.

That, in turn, could drive up grocery prices in the coming months after crops are delivered to food processors, said Evelina Trainer, senior economist at the First National Bank of Chicago.

She said bread, cereal, margarine, mayonnaise and vegetable oil are among the products expected to rise in price.

The anticipation of smaller harvests already is boosting prices and trading volume on the commodity exchanges in Chicago. Grain and soybean prices closed sharply higher Tuesday on the Chicago Board of Trade, with corn futures reaching their daily price limit.

″The options pits are going crazy,″ said clerk Patrick Q. Sweeny. ″The traders are playing weatherman, trying to forecast rain ahead of time.″

Peoria County, Ill., farmer Joe Vonk said he already has written off his wheat crop. Farmers said the hay fields in the area likely will be cut only once this summer instead of the usual three times, and farmers on poorer soil fear their corn and soybean crops will be the next victims.

In Michigan, farmers cursed the cloudless blue skies.

″They’re just shrinking up,″ Rochester, Mich., farmer Dennis Fogler said of his crops. ″I’m just hoping like heck we get some water before it’s too late.″

In Washington, Agriculture Secretary Richard E. Lyng said Tuesday the drought ″could well be a catastrophe.″

Damage already has been done to wheat fields in Montana and the Dakotas, he said, and additional weeks of scorching temperatures and no rain could cause severe damage in the Corn Belt and across the South, he told lawmakers.

Corn and soybeans are drawing on moisture stored in soil and remain viable, he said. He added that July weather is more critical and good rainfall from now on could do much to revitalize the crops.

Temperatures soared into the 90s in many parts of the nation Tuesday, and the heat was forecast to continue today.

The National Weather Service predicted showers for parts of parched Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota today, but said the relief should be short-lived.

″It doesn’t look like it would be more than a day or so″ that the rain will fall, weather service meteorologist Hugh Crowther in Kansas City. Mo., said this morning.

1132EDT

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