Jersey farmers hoping for rain
The hot, dry weather we’ve had in New Jersey this summer has certainly caught the attention of farmers.
“They are constantly watching conditions, no matter what part of the state they’re in, because rainfall patterns can and do differ widely,” said Doug Fisher, New Jersey agriculture secretary.
He said “you could be on one farm and have significant rainfall and not have much concern, and another farm, not that far away has to irrigate heavily.”
Fisher said while rainfall totals in southern counties have been higher than in the northern and central parts of the state this summer, farmers in most southern areas still have their backs up against the wall, hoping for rain.
“The last few days or so they’ve had ¾ of an inch of rain and it was really just in time. I would hear 'em ... complaining they were really concerned,’ he said.
When it doesn’t rain, Fisher said, farmers to turn on their water sprinklers.
“We have farmers that irrigate and make up that difference. It’s expensive but obviously it has to happen,” he said.
Fisher said irrigation costs do cut into a farmer’s profit margin “as opposed to adjusting the price up because the added cost of irrigation, but that’s the business. We’re just thankful we can bring in the crops we need to bring in and that we have the resources to be able to do it."
Pete Furey, director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau group that advocates for farmers, said there has been considerable concern about the non-irrigated crops grown in North Jersey, primarily Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex Counties.
“Three quarters of the crops grown in New Jersey are fruits, vegetables and plants grown in nurseries, but crops that take up most of the farmland can’t afford irrigation so they are vulnerable. Those would be your field corn, soybean and of course all of your hay crops,” he said.
He said they do not earn as much money in the marketplace, to justify the cost of irrigation.
Furey said while rainfall has been a little spotty even in South Jersey, things can still work out for farmers in the northern part of the state.
“It’s possible with a couple of timely rains yet in the season things may stabilize,” he said. “The lack of rain in northwest Jersey has been going on for a couple of years now, and it’s different than the southern part of the state.”
Furey added Jersey has very resourceful farmers and “every summer it gets hot and every summer it gets dry spells, and we’re hoping to be able to manage 2016 as we have in the past. Mother Nature is gonna do what she’s gonna do, but there’s still time to recover and we will just look at the rest of the season with a lot of caution, but not press any panic buttons just yet.”
Fisher stressed this is a great time to support Jersey farmers.
“There’s plenty of great crops that are coming on, we’re now in the height of the season, running into August,” he said. “We hope that people will get out there and buy the Jersey Fresh and so many other products we grow and produce in the state.”
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