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Veteran farmer: ‘I have never seen it this dry’

By Walter Geiger Though it has been overshadowed by the presidential election and hurricane frenzy, drought has set in here and it has gone by the critical stage to near disaster. Sauney and Geraldine Pippin got out of the military in 1970 and came back to Redbone to farm along with Sauney’s brother Jackson and his wife Jackie at sprawling County Line Farm. They know farming, they know the land and they know the status of row cropping and raising cattle here. ’In the 46 years I have been back on the farm, I have never seen it this dry. I’ve seen soybeans dry up. I’ve seen cotton dry up. I’ve seen winter grazing dry up. Anything planted on dry land is dead, period. Irrigation is the only thing that has saved us. Our creeks and ponds have dried up and we have dried some up irrigating out of them,’ Pippin said. The Pippins and many others cast hopeful eyes on Hurricane Matthew as it approached with the anticipation it would bring rain to parched land. The moisture made it only to the Macon-Warner Robins area and Lamar got not a drop. A tropical system would be just what the doctor ordered for local crops and pastures but so far the doctor has been on vacation. The last rain in Redbone was Sept. 18. None is forecast through Nov. 2. Area cattlemen, who battled army worms earlier this year, are looking at disastrous losses. Their pastures withered away to nothing long ago and they were forced to feed hay they cut earlier in the year that they planned to save for winter. Now they are facing a winter with no hay in storage and pastures that are too dry to overseed with winter grazing crops. ’I don’t know what they are going to do. They are going to have to buy expensive hay from somewhere or sell their cows and cattle prices are half of what they were a year ago,’ Pippin said. County Line Farm has extensive irrigation. The Pippins were able to irrigate hay fields and are irrigating winter grazing. They would like to help those in need but they can only do so much. ’We sold some hay but we had to stop. We have 700 head of cattle ourselves and have to hold on to it. Again, irrigation saved us,’ he added. Meanwhile, those without irrigation are faced with some hard choices and praying for rain.

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