Rain too little too late in hardest hit areas
Warm weather continues with normal rainfall into the fall
By Brandy Harrison
RENFREW COUNTY — Early August rain was a huge relief to Darcy Smith, but back in July the Pembroke dairy and crop farmer considered drastic measures.
"My frigging pen was on the cheque to buy an irrigation system. I was hauling the hose home when there was a problem with the pump. It caused a three-day delay and we got rain so I cancelled it," says Smith, who grows canola and sweet corn. "The worst of the fears are over now."
The rain put a few extra pods on Smith’s soybeans and shriveled corn that was on the verge of shut down in July is now bursting out of its husks.
In the 10 days after July 13, nearly all of Eastern Ontario was upgraded to level 2 low water drought conditions that were still in effect on Aug. 27, despite near-normal rainfall in most of the region.
Most of the rain fell in an eight-day stretch in the second week of August and for the most part, farmers were spared torrid, crop-killing temperatures, hail, and strong winds, says David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.
"Is it better than nothing? Of course it is — you’d never give it back," says Debra Pretty-Straathof, the Arnprior-based vice-president for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
The damage differs from farm to farm but there are losses across the board in Renfrew County, she says, adding that those without crop insurance might be disappointed with the disaster assistance coming their way. On Aug. 27, the feds labeled Renfrew, Lanark, Ottawa, and Prescott-Russell as prescribed drought regions, the first step to unlocking additional relief.
"I’m feeling better because things are green, but I probably shouldn’t be because it’s just barely better than it was," says Douglas cow-calf operator Michael Donohue, who’s already gone through 225 bales of his winter stores two months ahead of schedule.
Environment Canada predicts warm weather and near normal rainfall for fall. However, it won’t be enough to make up the deficit or recharge the soil for next year,