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Farmers fear ‘crisis’ on the horizon as heat wave threatens crops and animals

American farmers are bracing for a rough summer of extreme heat that has ravaged the nation and around the world, putting pressure on their crops and livestock just in time for the global grain shortage.

With temperatures in the 90s and in places even over 100, American farms are struggling to keep farm animals out of the heat and irrigation as extreme weather has left farmers terrified of what lies ahead in August.

A Massachusetts farmer described the industry as on the brink of “crisis.”

“In July, when we get the weather we normally have in August, it’s pretty scary,” Todd Sandstrum, manager of Medway Community Farm in Medway, told WFXT in Boston. “We’re seeing record temperatures around the world this week and I think it really resonates with the crisis ahead of us.”

Excessive heat has put US farmers in a precarious position this harvest season. Above, farm workers clear up the hoses used to irrigate an okra field on July 13, 2022, near Coachella, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sandstrum said the dried-up swamps meant to water his fields forced him to send an emergency request to the city recently, asking if the farm could tap into the municipal water supply.

While he was able to get water three days a week, he worries that those parameters could change quickly if the city falls into its own water crisis and limits Sandstrum to fewer days.

“We obviously have a pretty substantial water ban in the city, but in this situation where we have a community crop, we obviously don’t want to lose that,” Medway Town Manager Mike Boynton told Boston station.

Sandstrum said that while the farm aims to be off municipal supplies as soon as possible, there will be a significant amount of rain, which is not forecast for the foreseeable future.

Pennsylvania farmer Bob Pardoe said the weather has made him “sit here watching things dry out.”

Excuse me too told The daily item that while he has irrigation on some of his crops, his production for the year will be “well below par” unless rain comes soon.

Not only farmers in the north have had to deal with the extreme heat. In March, each of Kansas’ 105 counties was placed under a drought watch, warning, or state of emergency by Governor Laura Kelly.

Kansas received only half of its normal rainfall this year and would produce three-quarters of last year’s crop, according to a May report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In July, that estimate fell even further by a further 3.85 million bushels.

As farmers try to grow their crops, they also struggle to provide adequate shade for their livestock and sheep during the scorching conditions, which can make even barns unbearably hot.

“The most important thing for the animals is that if the temperature drops below 70 degrees at night, they have a chance to recover a bit at night, just like we do when we go home to the air conditioning,” Mary Margaret Smith , executive program director of Farm Units at the University of Connecticut, told WTIC.

Heat stress in cows can also lead to reduced milk production or sometimes death, further hurting the pockets of farmers who try to run their business as usual while trying to beat the heat for themselves.

“I usually wear a wide-brimmed hat, which usually helps keep the sun off my head,” says Daniel Goldstein, the manager of Shundahai Farm in Mansfield, Connecticut. “I personally think the most important thing for me is to keep the sun off my skin. That’s why I wear my long sleeves and pants.”

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