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Pennsylvania under drought watch

August 06, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

For more information about Pennsylvania's drought status, go to www.depweb.state.pa.us/watershedmgmt.

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Franklin and Fulton were among the 58 counties in Pennsylvania included in a drought watch issued Monday by the Department of Environmental Protection in Harrisburg, Pa.

A drought watch is the first level of Pennsylvania's three drought classifications and calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in nonessential water use, according to the press release for the Department of Environmental Protection.

If the dryness continues, a drought warning could follow, calling for a voluntary reduction of 10 percent. A drought emergency follows and mandates that major water users reduce their consumption by 15 percent.

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"After a fairly wet winter and spring, precipitation levels over the last two months have dropped dramatically resulting in deficits of as much as 4 inches in some counties," DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty said in the press release. "With groundwater and streamflow levels also on the decline, we're asking everyone to conserve water to get us through the rest of the summer months."

This season's corn crop in Fulton County will be about a 50 percent loss, said Greg Strait, extension educator for the Fulton County Cooperative Extension Office.

"This has been one of the drier (summers) in the past three years," he said. "We've gotten rain here the past three evenings. I think that's pulled a lot of the corn back."

In Franklin County, corn and hay have suffered due to the lack of rainfall.

"It has been detrimental to the corn," said James Junkin, president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau. "A lot of the farmers are starting to chop early, the stalks aren't that high and aren't going to yield a lot per acre."

Junkin said the hay yield is likely off by 30 to 40 percent.

"The dairy guys are hurting ... because with the corn being off, they are not getting the chopping for the dairy cows like they should and they're not getting the hay cuttings, either," Junkin said. "I think you are going to find that a lot of the dairymen are going to be strapped for feed this fall and winter."

Jeff Grove of Gro-Lan Farms, near Shippensburg, Pa., told the Associated Press that he expects a 50 percent loss of the corn crop grown to feed 450 dairy cows. Some nearby fields are showing no ears of corn at all, which Grove attributed to the dryness while the corn pollinated over the past month.

"Without crop insurance, this is the kind of year that could put you out of business," Grove said.

William Troxell, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, told the Associated Press that growers will lose some of their crops, especially sweet corn, if they do not have irrigation systems. Snap bean yields were lower than normal during the recent harvest, he said.

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