Drought conditions wreak havoc on western Wisconsin corn fields

4:32 PM, Jul 16, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO COUNTY, Wis. -- Dennis Hetrick is a sixth generation farmer near Nelson, Wis., which is a hop, skip and a jump across the border from Wabasha. He's seen several droughts in his day and the one he's currently in ranks right up there.

"With these temperatures, we need an inch every five days to get an average crop," Hetrick said before telling KARE 11 he could lose 20 percent of his corn to the conditions. Hetrick is in okay shape. He uses his corn to feed his dairy cows and he has some stored up from the previous two years, which were good.

But don't think he's not concerned.

"You know, you see the next cloud coming over the horizon and they think well maybe today's the day," he said. He got a good soaking on Friday and that'll keep him going for a few days. On Hetrick's farm, he has some corn that doesn't have a shot at survival. It's brown and dry and comes up to his knees. Across the dirt road, he's got good crops that are up over his head because he spent a considerable amount of money irrigating them.

Twenty miles to the south, Keith Greshik is pumping out thousands of gallons to quench his corn's thirst. But Greshik still stands to lose 100 acres worth. "It's $600 an acre [to plant it]. It'll be in the ground for next year hopefully," he said gazing over his brown fields that should be green.

Greshki is still hoping for a good soybean crop and hopes to hold the line and keep his growing corn going in this drought. "We also had a really dry winter and there just is no room for error this year and it's here," he explained. "But that's farming."

Greshik's plots near Cochrane didn't get a soaking on Friday. He hasn't seen measurable rain since the third week of June. Both Greshik and Hetrick say they need a good inch of rain a week for a couple of months to salvage what's left in the fields that they're not irrigating.

Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a drought emergency for 42 counties in the state, including Buffalo County. Most farmers in western Wisconsin say drive anywhere south of the Red Wing area in Minnesota, and you'll find farmers struggling with the hot and dry summer.

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