Gov. Branstad says drought is becoming more critical

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It's a painful show-and-tell for Columbus Junction farmer Wayne Humphreys.

"This is no longer a corn plant," he said. "This is a weed."

Humphreys joined more than 100 farmers at a special summit in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday. That's where he displayed drought-damaged plants.

"This ear is probably not harvestable," he said.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and a panel of state officials learned that some farmers might lose their entire corn crop. Others could get a decent harvest. Those variables worry longtime growers like Humphreys.

"People that have a problem, they'll internalize it," he said. "They'll get despondent, or they'll withdraw."

"The situation is getting more critical every day that goes by," said Governor Branstad.

Hot, dry weather keeps deteriorating the Iowa corn crop. More than a quarter of the Iowa corn is now rated as poor to very poor.

"It's a case where things are probably going to get worse before they get better," said Iowa State Climatologist Harry Hillaker.

It's even tougher for livestock producers. Pastures and water sources are drying up. That's prompting the call to free more land for grazing.

"We may see more liquidation events," said Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau president. "We hate to see that. There's long-lasting impact to the livestock industry."

Experts suggest that Iowa farmers prepare now before drought conditions become severe statewide. While most farmers have crop insurance, they should register at county FSA offices. A federal disaster declaration would also free up assistance.

"We're going to get as much information as we can," said Gov. Branstad. "See what's possible, and what kind of help is available."

Several speakers also urged Congress to pass the Farm Bill. They say it will restore several programs that are crucial to fighting the drought.

Tuesday's fact-finding mission should help farmers to plot a drought survival strategy. At this point, some must aim for the future.

"Next year, we'll plant corn," Humphreys concluded. "We'll be here, better, safer, stronger, and we'll be smart."

They'll be Iowa farmers smart enough to survive another drought.