Tenn. crop harvest nearly done in 'decent year'

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2009 1:15 PM

A dry November to cap an otherwise wet 2009 has helped Tennessee farmers gather in most of the 2009 harvest, agricultural officials said Tuesday.

"It was a pretty decent year, considering everything," said Jim Heep, a U.S. Department of Agriculture statistician in Nashville.

Farmers across Tennessee were hampered by an unusually wet year that pushed back planting, then hampered summer field work.

Heep said the cotton harvest is 95 percent complete and there are a few acres of corn and soybeans still in the field.

"We didn't get caught up, but we had a whole lot of catching up to do," Heep said. "We were a month behind on Nov. 1."

Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens said Tuesday the crop season looks better at the end than it did in the beginning.

"We think it's going to be a better year than we expected," he said. "We had two or three weeks late in the harvest season and farmers got out there and worked night and day."

Givens said the cotton crop was the most affected and corn the least by excessive moisture.

He said it will be January before final crops reports are in, but he expects winter livestock grazing to be excellent, with fall seeding of rye grass and other forage done.

Jason Luckey is a fourth-generation farmer of 3,600 acres in Gibson County, between Humboldt and Medina in West Tennessee. He said his family watched a promising year degrade into an average season.

"The spring rains got us behind and we were nervous about getting our crops planted and were off to a late start," Luckey said. "Then came summer rains and it was a little bit cooler (than usual) and our yields started looking fantastic."

Those hopes were dashed by record rainfall in September and October.

"Looking back at what could have been, it sure didn't pan out to what we were hoping," said Luckey, who farms with his brother Ken and his nephew Zac.

He said his father is retired, but is still "barking orders."

The poorly timed autumn rains caused Gov. Phil Bredesen to request in November that an agricultural emergency be declared for 16 counties that experienced severe flooding in September and October. They are Bradley, Chester, Cumberland, Hamilton, Hardeman, Lauderdale, Macon, McMinn, McNairy, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, Shelby, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson counties. That request was still pending Tuesday.

On balance, Givens said, "The year was somewhere north of 'good' and I'll take that any time."