Drought lingers in Pennsylvania

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click image to zoom Drought continues to cling to parts of Pennsylvania, and though crop planting has been able to excel in the dry conditions, the lack of precipitation and the end of La Niña leave many in the region questioning how long the drought will persist.   

According to the USDA’s latest Drought Monitor, 60 percent of Pennsylvania – primarily in the central and eastern parts of the state – is in abnormally dry or moderate drought. Little recovery has been made since mid-April, when Dairy Herd Network first reported 60 percent of the state in these same stages.

The possibility of an official drought declaration is real for many counties, including Bradford County as reported by 18WETM. The county has been below the normal precipitation and ground water levels since February. 

Further to the southeast, Philadelphia measured one-third of an inch of rain for the month thanks to gentle rain over the past few days according to Philly.com. However, despite the rain, deficits remain. Precipitation totals for the region are running between 60 to 65 percent of normal since Jan. 1.

While some wait and hope for relief, others have taken advantage of Mother Nature to speed through planting. Twenty-seven percent of the state’s corn has been planted, compared to 1 percent in 2011.

Not everyone has been able to take advantage of the weather. Lebanon County dairy farmer Calvin Miller told Lancer Farming that he is hoping for moisture to stock-up on feed for his 200 cows.

“We’re doing a lot of praying right now,” Miller told Lancer Farming.

Miller and other farmers are still reeling from last year’s dramatic weather events, including a hot, dry summer that reduced hay cuttings and forage supplies.  Record downpours followed, delaying harvest and damaging many fields.

The last thing agriculture producers in the region need right now is a drought.

Miller said that he’s trying to manage the feed he has on hand and hopes the rain will start rejuvenating his pastures, which he can’t even use right now.

Given the price of milk and the high price of input costs such as hay and forage, Miller is expecting a tight profit margin in the near future.

“The profit margin right now is very slim,” Miller said.

And what will the coming months bring to the region?

AccuWeather.com released their 2012 summer outlook on Thursday, and by the looks of it eastern Pennsylvania will be spared prolonged heat and active severe weather this summer.  For parched Pennsylvania and others along the East coast, AccuWeather’s forecast of above-normal precipitation during both June and August will be welcomed after a dry winter and early spring.

Other outlooks for the region also show signs of easing drought conditions. The National Weather Service reported in its Seasonal Drought Outlook that while the drought in eastern Pennsylvania is ongoing, it is showing signs of improvement. It may not promise relief for the region, but it is a glimmer of hope for those wondering when it will end.



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