Soggy spring bogs down New York farmers

May 5, 2011

Our wet spring has been unkind to farmers, who need sunny skies to get crops like broccoli and spinach in the ground.  While the news that those crops might not be available is likely welcome to kids across New York State, Ben Dobbin reports for AP that the New York Farm Bureau has its fingers crossed for a change in the weather:

In some regions such as Long Island, a plenitude of greenhouses and protective plastic cold frames is giving growers a jump on spring plantings. But at most of the state's 36,000 farms, nature is proving to be an excruciating drag.

"The fields are just very muddy and inhospitable to getting tractors rolling, and so that's very frustrating," [Farm Bureau spokesman Peter] Gregg said.

"Usually it's not too long after the snow melts that we try to get out in the fields and begin tilling and planting. But that really hasn't happened in a lot of cases. All across the state we are late.

It's the same story for apple farmers along Lake Ontario, reports Debra Groom at the Post-Standard.  Trees that should have bloomed two weeks ago are keeping mum as the rains continue to sweep across the state:

Gordon Tripp, of Owen Orchards in Sennett, said some of the later varieties, such as Fuji or Granny Smith, could be damaged if the harvest goes too late.

But as the rain keeps falling, delaying the bloom is costing the growers more money in fungicide they have to spray to keep apple scab off the trees. [Ontario Orchards owner Dennis] Ouellette said it’s costing him an extra $300 per acre to spray this year.

And if the trees bloom and then it rains more, that could keep the bees away from pollinating the trees.

That could lead to fewer apples, growers said.

It's not just farming that's threatened by the rain though - Dennis Yusko and Brian Nearing report at the Times Union that rising waters in the Hudson River are raising fears that PCBs left behind by industry could resurface.  GE has had the mud left behind by spring flooding tested to ensure that residents aren't being exposed to carcinogenic PCBs:

When water levels and flows ebb, GE also will examine the rock, gravel and sediment "caps" that were installed on river bottom sections dredged of PCBs during 2009. Tests for PCBs will also be done on mud left behind along floodplains.

EPA Project Administrator Dave King said samples will be taken Thursday and Friday, and results should be known in a couple of days. "We have taken samples like this during the flood seasons before, and the results have always come back very low. Once we get information back now, we will know whether there is anything to worry about."

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