CHESTER, N.H. (AP) – In a normal year, farmer Robert Healey bales his third and final cutting of hay by the middle of September.

This year, he hasn’t bailed a single cutting. This is the first time he can remember when he hasn’t had a good hay crop in August.

“It’s just drenched out there still,” he said. “I’m still trying to get a good batch, but I’ll be lucky if I get a full one.”

Healey grows hay to feed his cattle. He said it was the worst farming season he’s seen in 65 years.

Phil Ferdinando’s Derry farm is doing no better.

“There’s really no crop that’s doing well. I’ve never had a season like this,” said Ferdinando, 49, of J & F Farms. “We’ve had drought seasons where the crops have been better because we’re able to irrigate them. But when it’s this wet, there’s nothing we can do.”

Farmers blame the poor season on May floods and an early, chilly end to summer. They’re working hard to salvage what they can before the first frost.

The state is offering some help. It announced two weeks ago that New Hampshire’s family farmers are eligible for loans from the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor said the low-interest loans could be of special help to farmers in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, which were hit the hardest by the May floods.

To qualify, farmers must show they lost crops, buildings or suffered other losses, said Taylor.

“Not many in New Hampshire are going to qualify,” he said.

Taylor said most farmers already have lines of credit from other sources.

Ferdinando isn’t so sure the money will help him, however.

Ferdinando said it is too late to save his season and the loan would have to be repaid with money he doesn’t have.

“Plus, you have to qualify for it, which usually means there has to be a total loss of crops,” he said.

He hasn’t lost everything, but hasn’t had a good yield either. The 200-acre farm typically produces crops ranging from corn to tomatoes. Rain washed away early plantings or stunted the growth of plants that came up. He still needed the same staff which made it harder to be profitable.

Despite farmers’ troubles, Taylor said the season is slowly getting back to normal.

“The first hay crop was terrible,” he acknowledged. “It rained all the time.”

Taylor said conditions have improved and farmers should have better luck harvesting second and third hay crops. The lack of feed will hurt, especially dairy farmers, he added.

Ferdinando doesn’t agree. The only thing that could be worse would be the first frost coming in September instead of October.

Healey still hopes to get one good cutting of hay.

“I just keep plugging away and hoping for the best,” he said.

On the bright side, the wet weather is producing a nice apple crop, said Taylor.



Information from: Eagle Tribune, http://www.eagletribune.com

AP-ES-09-07-06 1321EDT


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