Droughts across America are making headlines this summer, hurting crops in several parts of the country. Farmers out west are calling it a crisis. But according to Al Murray, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, this year’s dry conditions and extreme heat have had little effect on Garden State produce. In fact, he tells Managing Editor Mike Schneider that some crops are having some of their best seasons.
Murray says New Jersey is not currently in a drought situation and is fortunate as a coastal state to have had timely rainstorms and thunderstorms. For the most part, dryness is not a problem for New Jersey farmers because most crops irrigated. “Our farmers would prefer that it be dry so that they can put the optimal amount of water on the crops to make the most bountiful and the best quality produce.”
The main concern for farmers, he says, is the excessive heat on the plants and crops. “When you get these 100 degree days and these 95 degree days just like humans the plants don’t bear up well under that kind of heat. So the challenge for the farmer is to keep those plants healthy and put a lot of water on them.”
The crops that are feeling the negative effects of the weather are grain corn, soybeans and hay which Murray says are generally not irrigated due to their low value in terms of irrigation costs.
“What that translates into is that a lot of our livestock farmers such as the dairy farmers and the equine industry, they rely on these crops because that’s what we use to feed the livestock. So it’s little tough for them right now.”
But it’s a different story for the state’s fruits and vegetables, which are irrigated. This year’s conditions have been outstanding for some farmers. “You talk to a blueberry farmer they would love to have another season like we’ve had so far. They had a great year, the conditions were great for great blueberries.”
Still, the plight of farmers out west will have on impact for some time, says Murray.
“The futures and the futures markets are already climbing. Farmers are taking advantage of contracting for future prices. And I think you’re going to see those prices climb significantly in the next 3 to 5 months.”
Because the state grows over a hundred different fruits and vegetables a year, the conditions this years have produced mixed results depending on the crop. But Murray is generally satisfied with the way the season has been producing thus far.
“If you had to take it as an overall assessment of the season, we’re having a half decent year this year. We’re clearly not having a bad year and the heat is providing some problems but nothing insurmountable.”