Hay crop loss worries ranchers

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) -- Ranchers in western Arkansas say they're worried they won't have enough hay to feed their herds through winter because hay crops withered during months of severely hot, dry weather, driving up prices.

Some ranchers have had to sell off cattle or start feeding their cattle and horses with their winter food reserves, the Arkansas News Bureau of Stephens Media Group reports. At least one rancher decided to move his herd to Nebraska because it's not as dry, but many can't afford to do that.

At the beginning of summer, some parts of Arkansas were still flooded after weeks of record-breaking rain. Fort Smith received 21 inches of rain during April and May, according to the National Weather Service.

Weather helps late crops

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- The Agriculture Department says recent warm weather is helping Nebraska's crops mature.

The USDA released its weekly report on crop conditions Sept. 6. It said temperatures last week averaged 5 degrees above normal, which helped the state's crops.

About 75 percent of Nebraska's corn crop rated in good or excellent condition. That's a little behind last year's 81 percent good or excellent at the same time, but it's close to the average of 74 percent.

Roughly 79 percent of the soybean crop is in good or excellent shape. That's better than last year's 78 percent good or excellent and the average of 72 percent at this time of year.

Wyoming hay prices sky-high

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- Wyoming ranchers say they're getting sky-high prices for hay because of drought conditions across Texas and the southern plains.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that demand for hay has driven prices in Wyoming from about $84 a ton last year to about $115 a ton this year. The high prices are linked to drought conditions in prominent cattle-producing states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

"Our hay prices have been really high this year, and we have started to bundle it up into larger bails to send to other places because of the demand," said Monte Lerwick, a rancher and farmer in Albin.

Todd Ballard with the U.S. Agricultural Department's Agricultural Statistics Field Office for Wyoming said hay prices are up nationwide, where the average cost for non-alfalfa hay moved from $95 a ton last year to about $127 a ton now.

Huge peach sets Colorado record

PALISADE, Colo. (AP) -- A huge peach weighing a pound and a half is setting a record in Palisade.

Farmer Robert Helmer told The Grand Junction Sentinel that he harvested a Cresthaven peach that weighed 1.5 pounds. The Palisade Chamber of Commerce says the largest peach previously seen there was one that weighed 1.14 pounds in 2007. An average peach weighs about half a pound.

Farmers in the area say this year's fruit is especially large. King-sized peaches are a result of weather and water, along with how trees are pruned.

Rain hampers N.D. harvest

FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Scattered rain showers in North Dakota over the past week provided needed moisture in some areas but hampered the progress of the harvest.

The Agriculture Department says in its latest crop and weather report that the small grains harvest still lags behind the average pace. Sixty-five percent of the spring wheat and 77 percent of the barley crop in North Dakota are in the bin, but only 32 percent of the durum wheat is off the field. That's only about half the five-year-average.

Iowa crop conditions poor

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The state received some much needed rain last week but overall crop conditions continue to trail 2010.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said Tuesday that much of the state received rain that helped the soybean crop, but the rain was at times accompanied by severe weather that caused crop damage in some areas. The rain helped improve soil moisture levels which have been dry in recent weeks.

Both corn and soybeans trail last year in maturity.

Seventeen percent of Iowa's corn crop is in poor or very poor condition; 28 percent fair; and 55 percent good or excellent.

Thirteen percent of soybeans are in poor or very poor condition; 25 percent fair; and 62 percent good or excellent.

Northey says widespread harvest is probably two weeks away.

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