Daytime temperatures have dropped below 90 degrees in most parts of New Jersey but the drought watch continues, which means it’s still hot and abnormally dry and everyone is being asked to cut back on their use of water.

For many Garden State farmers, however, that’s just not possible because if they don’t irrigate their fields, the crops will wither and die.

Pete Furey, the executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, said inflation and supply chain issues have already significantly increased costs for farmers, and with the prolonged period of dry weather we’ve had “what this does is add to the costs with diesel fuel to power the irrigation pumps with watering the fields, where there is irrigation.”

“For those crops that don’t have irrigation the field crops like corn and soybean, you just sit there and suffer the losses, so we’re hopeful the rain is in the imminent future and we can recover somewhat.”

In this photo taken Thursday, July 21, 2016, farmer John Lavoie walks through drying strawberry patch in Hollis, N.H. Parts of the Northeast are in the grips of a drought that has led to water restrictions, wrought havoc on gardens and raised concerns among farmers. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
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Heat is dangerous

He said even if a farmer has an irrigation system, for vegetable plants “the heat is dangerous to the continued yield of the tomato, eggplant, pepper and so forth, this is also a problem for other crops like hay.”

Furey said while farmers may typically have a couple of cuttings of hay during the year, that may now be limited to one cut, because of the absence of rain.

He pointed out the cost of fertilizer is up 100% from last year and diesel fuel prices are also way up, so farmers were hoping for large yields of crops this summer, but “the heat and the drought will cripple the chances of that happening.”

How can you help?

He said while farmers are facing significant challenges from Mother Nature and the marketplace “consumers can help by maintaining their loyalty to local produce, there’s no substitute to having a good faithful customer base.”

“We need to have the homeowners pitch in, getting out and supporting the local farmers,” he said.

“The farmers will carry on and do the best they can but it’s certainly a very stressful situation.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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