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Knox County farmers deal with drought

The new drought report is tough on Knox County farmers. It’s where the corn crop is reduced each day without rain and cooler temperatures.

Knox County farmer Norlynn McCormick knows a lot about droughts. Record-setting 1988 was his first year in the fields.

“You try to forget those types of years,” he recalled.

It looks like 2012 could be just as dry.

“I always feel like I need to go out to the field to see what’s going on,” he said. “But that gets a little more depressing every day.”

On another sunny, hot Thursday in Gilson, Illinois, big wheels in motion lead the way to “Be Ready Field Days.” That’s where more than 200 farmers try out the latest Case-IH equipment. Implement dealer Birkey’s is hosting a half-dozen events like this while monitoring the tough conditions.

“What we want to do is try and look at some of the things that can help farmers be more productive,” said Mark Foster, Birkey’s agriculture division manager. “A dollar saved is a dollar earned.”

Knox County corn at the demonstration looks pretty good. But dry conditions come at a crucial time. Farmers already expect to harvest a lot less. Each day with extreme weather makes it worse.

“A rain this weekend would be great,” McCormick said. “It would change some things.”

As drought conditions widen and worsen across the region, it sends a ripple effect to agribusinesses. Businesses like grain bins, fertilizer firms and implement dealers that depend on sales to the farming community.

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, tractor and combine sales increased nationwide in June. But drought could decrease spending on big ticket items.

“Sales have been pretty good through the first half of the year,” Foster said. “But that will have an effect. It will cause them to be just a little more cautious than they normally might have been.”

McCormick says there are some big differences from 1988. Better hybrid seeds, tillage practices and crop insurance are among the improvements.

Still, farmers are bracing to bring in a fraction of their corn. McCormick doesn’t want history to repeat.

“This is still not as bad as 1988, not for us,” he concluded. “Not yet, anyway.”

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