Renfrew County farmers warn their crops are in bad shape
Farmers in one eastern Ontario county say they’re experiencing a drought crisis as western Quebec braces for more weeks of drought.
Renfrew County’s economy depends greatly on agriculture, which is bad news for an area where more crops are dying every day.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen in years, it’ll be one for the record books,” said Debra Pretty-Straathof, Arnprior rep for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
“Crop fields are about half-full right now, we’re looking at a loss of production, loss of income . . . Even if it does rain it might be too late for some.”
The provincial government upgraded Renfrew County’s drought level to Level 2 in a meeting Thursday afternoon, meaning residents are asked to cut their water usage by 20 per cent.
“Stream flows are just below 50 per cent of normal right now, so it’s very dry,” said Alastair Baird with Renfrew County. “There’s very low precipitation compared to normal.”
In western Quebec, Environment Canada said it’s not forecasting the end of drought conditions until mid-August.
They also said above-average temperatures are predicted for several more weeks, making the drought worse.
High costs for farmers means prices for consumers will rise
The continuing lack of a significant rainfall has already caused the price of corn and hay used for feeding livestock to rise dramatically.
“Hay has doubled in price, it should be $40 a bale right now not $60, $70 or $80 a bale,” said one farmer.
This means prices for any goods with corn in the ingredients, like some dairy and meat products, will likely start to rise.
“I don’t remember local products being this expensive this late into July,” said Mel Hartman, who supplies produce to supermarkets across the region.
“If the drought stays the way it is and we don’t get some nice weather, you’re going to find the local product is going to end quicker and put a bigger strain on the U.S. market.”
Experts said the cost of corn has hit an all-time high, meaning an increase in price could be coming to virtually everything.
“Vitamins can be made out of corn . . . crayons, tires . . . because it’s cheap people are using it for fuel now,” said Linda Kitz, manager of Market Organics.
If you’re planning to see The Dark Knight Rises and its undoubtedly long run in theatres, you could be paying more for things like popcorn and soda (because it’s sweetened with corn syrup) by the time crowds thin out.