Thursday, June 24, 1999

Parched, smoggy Tristate looks forward to some rain

Two-day forecast brings hope to area farmers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A couple of rainy days should bring fresh air and greener pastures to Tristate residents.

        The National Weather Service forecasts an 80 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms today and a 30 percent chance of rain Friday.

        The rain should clear the smog that persisted over the cityscape for two days and replenish crops and pastures in the countryside.

        Sarah Brugger, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services, said the smog alert called for Tuesday and Wednesday would not continue today or Friday.

        “We're going to get enough rain,” Ms. Brugger said. “It's going to clean up some of those pollutants in the air.”

        So far, smog alerts have been called on ten days this June, including an eight-day streak June 6-13, she said. Last year, two fewer alerts were called in June.

        A half-inch of rain June 14, a trace during the weekend and cooler temperatures also have kept smog levels down most days since June 13. But it didn't help farmers much, said Greg Meyer, Warren County agricul ture extension agent.

        “We do need some more rain to come through at this stage in the game,” Mr. Meyer said. “It would certainly help.”

        Farmers need the type of long-soaking rain that two days of storm forecasts could bring, said Jerry Brown, agriculture extension agent for Boone County.

        “It's a critical issue,” Mr. Brown said, adding that crops such as tobacco are faring poorly.

        Without rain, plants are under stress and can't recover from diseases they normally could, he said. That means losses for Tristate-area farmers in a year that crops are doing well in Iowa, Illinois, parts of Indiana and northern Ohio.

        If crops fare well in one region, supply goes up and prices fall, hurting farmers in a drought area even more, Mr. Brown said.

        Pastureland is in the worst shape, he said, and it makes up most of Boone County's 80,000 acres of farmland. About 13,500 cattle graze there.

        If rain doesn't arrive as expected this weekend, already brown and drying pastures could remain dormant until the fall. Dried grass has less nutritional value for cattle than green grass, Mr. Brown said.

        That means farmers have to buy supplemental feed for their cattle or sell those they can't afford to feed, he said. Weather page

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