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      Local farmers pray for rain

      Week after week, dry conditions are continuing to whither crops across the country. The biggest issue U.P. farmers, like Dennis Johnson, are facing are with alfalfa hay. Typically this time of year, Dennis' alfalfa crops are knee high, but lack of water is leaving him with only a third of usable hay.

      â??Our biggest concern is our hay crop,â?? says Johnson. â??We're probably 60 to 70 percent short on our alfalfa crop right now.â??

      Farmer Ed McBroom says he's fortunate and isn't drowning in the drought as many are, but he says unless Michigan gets some rain soon, the forecast for the Upper Peninsula's farmers isn't looking good.

      â??Certainly praying that all of us get the rain that we need so we could have decent crops and continue to make a good product for everyone,â?? says McBroom.

      The lack of water has caused a lot of corn plants to be stunted and unprofitable. However, the ones that have grown maturely are in a critical stage, and if they don't receive water soon, they may also be at a total loss.

      â??We're blessed to have significant plants, but we won't have any kernel development,â?? McBroom says. â??We'll just have empty cobs.â??

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 1,297 counties across 29 states as disaster areas. According to the USDA, almost 40 percent of corn is in poor or very poor condition. Around this time last year, that figure was closer to 11 percent.

      The future forecast for consumers isnâ??t looking any brighter either.

      U.S. Department of Agriculture economist Richard Volpe said price increases for beef, poultry, pork and dairy will mostly likely show up at the supermarket within two to three months.

      In a recent press release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new flexibility and assistance in the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ??s major conservation programs to get help to much-needed help to livestock producers.

      â??President Obama and I are committed to getting help to producers as soon as possible and sustaining the success of Americaâ??s rural communities through these difficult times,â?? said Vilsack. â??Beginning today, USDA will open opportunities for haying and grazing on lands enrolled in conservation programs while providing additional financial and technical assistance to help landowners through this drought.â??

      For now, our local farmers, like Dennis Johnson, have their fingers crossed that rain may soon be on the way. If not, adjustments will be made to make ends meet. â??Liquidating some of our herd,â?? Johnson says. â??Sell cows for beef...that's going to be the bottom line.â??