The summer drought was one topic of conversation during barbecued lunch in Cobden for farmers on the on the Ottawa Rideau Soil and Crop annual car tour on July 25. The car tour started at Valley Bio in Cobden (viewing plots and lunch) and finished at Larry Reaburn’s farm at Westmeath. Some farmers felt the drought in the summer of 2012 was much worse than it is this summer.
Was it really drier in 2012? I checked my monthly rainfall records of 2012. The early part of the summer was dry both years. May of 2012 brought 45 mm. June 46 mm. July 23 mm. August 62 mm. September 97 mm.
This summer I recorded 31 mm in May, 54 mm in June and up until July 24 when we had the extreme heat for weeks, I only recorded one rainfall of 17 mm. The next few days skies finally opened and most areas received three to six inches of rain. I recorded exactly 75 mm.
Temperature wise there were hot days in 2012 and I recorded temperatures of 35 and 36 C. This July we had temperatures all the way up to 40 C and they stayed above 35 C for almost two weeks. The hot winds day after day decimated crops all over Ontario, except in northern Ontario. That’s the difference.
The early-planted corn started tasseling here on July 22 when the plants were three to five feet high and the bottom leaves were drying up, which is a bad sign. It will definitely be a much smaller yield.
Farmers made a lot more noise when we had extreme drought conditions in 2012. It didn’t do any good. I looked back at a column I wrote about the drought in 2012. I was hard on politicians. Here’s part of that column:
“2012 was a difficult summer for farmers but great for politicians needing some exposure and it didn’t cost them a cent. Very few folks around here could name the provincial agriculture minister but that changed a little this summer when the Grain Farmers of Ontario organized a tour for Ted McMeekin on two area farms. A posse of scribes and photographers followed the entourage and he was on the evening TV newscasts and in the weekly newspapers — out standing in the field.
“McMeekin wasn’t the only politician capitalizing on visiting disastrous crops and parched ground. A few days earlier the Conservative agriculture critic, Ernie Hardeman, was in our riding, meeting with farmers in a town hall type meeting. He wanted action from the McGuinty government. Hardeman and a few of his Conservative MPPs drove down rural roads in Renfrew County with crop farmers as guides and checked out the worst corn fields in the area. The press tagged along for the event. You’d think it was the first time in history that there was a summer drought.
“While a few politicians were truly sincere and concerned how the drought affected farmers, other politicians were just interested in publicity for themselves.
“With McMeekin and Hardeman in town and Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz making worthless announcements (defer taxes on cattle sold) that would set farmers back instead of helping them, it was a real farce, to say the least.
“If there’s a drought or other catastrophe people look to the government for aid — even the Back off Government landowners can’t resist it. The drought was great publicity but for all the wrong reasons. You can’t count on governments to help you in a crisis, even if the agriculture minister comes to your parched area with a TV news crew.”
Maynard van der Galien grows corn and soybeans in Renfrew County.