Weather has meant tough year for local farmers

  • Mon Jul 30th, 2012 10:00pm
  • News

By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer

While the rest of the country is suffering through drought and hot weather, local farmers are dealing with a different threat to their crops: A summer that’s too wet and too cool.

The damp weather has caused the spread of mold and other diseases for berries and could delay harvest for other crops such as potatoes and corn.

If there’s some good news, it’s that farmers’ problems here aren’t as severe as elsewhere in the country. Some farmers who export their produce hope the drought can increase demand and help them recover costs.

“Farmers succeed on somebody else’s failure. We don’t want to wish bad luck, but that’s how supply and demand works,” said Rick Williams, owner of Williams Farms of Stanwood.

He hopes a good harvest will offset rising fuel prices and the increased cost of fertilizers. He also hopes the drought will make his wheat and potato crops more marketable.

But he said he needs the weather to get warmer and stay that way until fall.

“We’ve got to be hopeful that we are going to have a good harvest,” Williams said. “With this unstable weather, we can’t count our chickens until they hatch.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced consumers can expect to pay 3 percent to 4 percent more for groceries next year because of the drought that is affecting more than half the country.

Milk, eggs, beef, poultry and pork prices will be affected. Prices for fruits, vegetables and processed foods are not affected as much by the drought.

In Washington state, it’s been the opposite. This and last year have been the wettest and coolest on recent record, said Carol Miles, vegetable horticulturist for the Washington State University.

The weather is causing an increase in crop diseases, which also have appeared earlier this year, she said. Farmers who will benefit the most in Washington will be those growing soy beans, wheat and potatoes, she said.

“Those prices are going pretty high. It will increase demand on the local farms to fill that niche,” Miles said.

Farmers who deal with grain are the most likely to benefit, if they sell outside local markets and to ranchers who need it to feed their livestock, she said.

“It’s good for people who grow those crops, but bad for those that buy their feed through stores that get it from the Midwest,” said Andrew Corbin, agriculture and natural resource educator at the WSU Extension in Everett.

Some farmers with livestock also grow their own grain and hay. Still, there could be a shortage, said Dan Bartelheimer, owner of Sno-Valley Farms.

“Corn and all the crops look good, but that could change in a short span of time,” he said.

Bartelheimer raises cattle. He also grows corn, grass and wheat among other things.

At this time, farmers are more concerned that their corn crops will be delayed, said John Postema, the president of Snohomish County Growers Alliance, which represents about 70 farmers and focuses on expanding their economic opportunities.

It’s too early to tell what the impact will be on feed corn, he said.

The price increases also can benefit organic growers in the area, such as Garden Treasure Nursery &Organic Farm in Arlington.

This is because the prices are going to be more competitive, owner Mark Lovejoy said.

“I expect the demand to be excellent for our product,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Alejandro Dominguez:425-339-3422;