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Local farmers relieved by rainfall; still more needed
A combine harvests wheat in a field off Middleground Road Wednesday.
    Rainfall across Bulloch County Wednesday helped the row crops and hay planted by area farmers, but more rain is needed in the coming weeks, said Bulloch County Extension Agent Wes Harris.
    Soybeans, corn and peanuts that were planted or will be planted soon should benefit from the soaking most of the county received late Wednesday. However, the recent dry spell actually helped farmers preparing to harvest oats, wheat and rye, he said.
    With the winter grain crops at harvest status and root crops such as onions and carrots reaching the end of their cycle, other crops are just starting and need the moisture.
    "The dry weather has been good for all that, but hasn't been beneficial for peanuts, beans and corn," he said.
    The rain Wednesday pulled the area away from the edges of drought conditions, and "we're back in gear," he said. Newly planted crops "should respond to the rain and if we get some more next week, we'll be in good shape."
    Not all areas of the county received rainfall, however. Harris said locations near Arcola, Stilson and Brooklet remain dry, and since those same areas did not get rainfall the last time a system came through, conditions are seriously dry.
    "We're never more than 10 days to two weeks away from a drought," he said. But this year, subsoil moisture is better than it was last year and "recharging is a little bit easier."
    As farmers hit the fields to harvest winter grains, they should be smiling. Harris said this year's crop is " outstanding."
    Wade Hodges began harvesting about 70 acres of wheat on land he farms near Middleground earlier this week.  
    "It's a good wheat crop this year," he said. "We had decent rain and good growing conditions. I expect you'll see that across Bulloch."
    Harris also sees a good year for row crops.
    "I suspect we will see some awfully high yields, especially in wheat," Harris said. "We're very pleased, and we also have record high prices" for grains.
    But with rising prices for crops also come rising costs to farm.
    "The price of wheat has dropped a little in the past few months, but we're still getting a good price," Hodges said. "But the problem is the cost per acre of growing has gone up, too. Five years ago it cost me $100 to fill up my diesel tank. Now it's $500."
    With the increased cost of farming, it is even more critical for the weather to cooperate, even if prices are on the rise.
    "Yes, our reward is greater, but so is our risk," he said. "Now, a bad year won't just set you back, it could wipe you out. You have to put a lot more money up front now."
    Much of the grain produced in Georgia is exported.
    "The grain we harvest here will probably be shipped overseas," Hodges said. "Some may go to Macon to be used domestically."
    While winter grains are looking good, the hay crop is still up in the air. A good start came with spring rains, but the dry spell began taking its toll on grass fields meant for hay and forage. If the rains continue however, the hay situation could improve.
    "Grass did slow down, but with this rainfall (Wednesday) I think you'll see it spring back real fast," Harris said.
    Herald editor Jim Healy contributed to this story.
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