Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published August 16, 2009, 12:00 AM

Drought sucking life out of northern Wisconsin farms

Wisconsin farmers are hurting and have been for the past several years as drought conditions continue to get worse across the region.

By: Melissa Ganje, Fox 21 News

Bone-dry fields, failing crops, shrinking herds.

Wisconsin farmers are hurting and have been for the past several years as drought conditions continue to get worse across the region.

Douglas County farmer Mark Liebaert says this is the fifth year of below-normal moisture during the growing season.

“This summer has been the worst of the five. We didn’t get any rain in May, we didn’t get any rain in the early part of June and the sub-moisture is all gone,” Liebaert said. “There is nothing left in the soil.”

That has led to significant crop damage and economic losses.

“The fact that we were so dry in May and June is the reason that we are so far behind here on the crops,” Liebaert said.

And the hay crop is used to feed his beef cattle herd, which is dwindling every year.

“We haven’t been able to ... grow the herd, we haven’t been able to replenish it, so the herd is getting smaller and smaller, which of course cuts into your income,” Liebaert said.

Liebaert expects to sell more cattle this year because they have to get by on the hay grown on the farm.

Liebaert is hoping to get about 70 round bales out of his hayfields this season, not even half what he got last year.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency because of drought conditions Wednesday in 41 Wisconsin counties, allowing farmers to get temporary irrigation permits more quickly.

But Liebaert says that won’t help him.

Liebaert says farmers in northern counties like Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron typically don’t use irrigation systems, so right now they are faced with a loss they can’t get back.

Liebaert says he hopes there will be a federal disaster declaration so farmers can be reimbursed for their hay crop loss.

Tags: