Disastrous drought in Ft. Bend County

FT. BEND COUNTY, TX As you walk through a field of corn, you don't only hear how dry it is. You can also see it.

"It failed to make to make any grain," said Ft. Bend County Farm Bureau President and lifelong farmer Ross Werlla.

Werlla says he's never seen anything like this.

"We had a drought in the 50s, but it didn't compare to this one," he said.

Werlla says the south and west side of the county is eight to ten inches of rain below average. Corn crops produced so little he says it's not even worth spending the money to harvest what did grow.

Irrigation is also not an option for most because of the cost.

"This drought is absolutely devastating," said Werlla. "It's a disaster."

Just consider the yields. The grain milo usually grows about 5,000 pounds per acre. This year, it's resulting in half that. Corn, Wuerlla says, usually makes 80 to 100 bushels per acre. This year is producing just 30 to 50 bushels. And cotton, which normally puts out a bale and a half to the acre, is now at only about half a bale an acre.

"There's not a lot you can do to fight Mother Nature," said farmer Alan Sydow. "There's not a lot you can do."

Ranchers are not much different. Werlla says many like him are forced now to sell calves younger and weighing less, just to keep them from eating what little grass there is. That's needed for the cows, so they can be in good enough shape to produce more calves next year.

"When you get into a drought, you have to do what you have to do," said Sydow.

Farmers will get some help from the federal government, but it won't be until this fall. The Department of Agriculture set aside $3 billion to reimburse farmers for their losses. The money won't be distributed until October or November. The money would cover 2008 losses.

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