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Triple whammy for farmers: Drought, heat, low prices

dry crops
Dry crops in Maryland need several inches of rain

CNN's Jonathan Aiken reports on the drought conditions in the Northeast, raising concerns for farmers.
Windows Media 28K 80K

July 5, 1999
Web posted at: 3:18 p.m. EDT (1918 GMT)

From Reporter Jonathan Aiken

FREDERICK COUNTY, Maryland (CNN) -- The years-long drought gripping parts of the northeastern United States -- an area also baking under intense heat in recent days -- could grow worse as the summer wears on and hot weather continues.

In early July on Leon Enfield's dairy farm in Frederick County, Maryland, there is dirt where there should be lush fields of corn, barley and alfalfa to feed the herd.

Enfield says rain, and lots of it, is desperately needed if his crops -- and his cows -- are to pull through.

"We need a couple of inches ... and it's not in the forecast," he told CNN.

There is no rain in sight as temperatures in much of the eastern United States approach or surpass 100 degrees, exacerbating a drought forecasters say is well into its third summer.

And yet away from farm fields, the food to be found in grocery stores and on produce stands still looks ripe and seems plentiful as East Coast farmers reach the peak of their season.

Prices are stable, too. But such apparent normalcy is deceptive, says a Maryland agricultural agent, because the drought isn't the only record-setting trend farmers have to contend with.

"We're entering into our second year of historical lows on commodity prices," said Kelly Hereth of the Carroll County Farm Service Agency.

That leaves farmers, especially small ones, facing a triple threat -- low prices, low yields and an ongoing drought.

For farmers like Enfield, it could all add up to "the biggest disaster that I ever experienced. It's not there yet, but it has that potential."

Dry conditions fine for Chilean wine
June 20, 1999
Mexico facing severe drought in five states
May 21, 1999
Researchers: Texas drought toll at least $2.1 billion
August 20, 1998

National Weather Service
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