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Abnormally dry summer brings drought, difficulty for farmers

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
Most of the Lower Peninsula is experiencing weather that's unusually dry. Parts of the state are even in the midst of a drought.

The Detroit area usually gets more than three inches of rain in July. This year, that number was closer to one inch.

This has been a dry summer all over the state. Most of the Lower Peninsula is experiencing drier-than-normal weather and some parts of the state are even in the midst of a drought. According to the United States Drought Monitor, this is Michigan's third unusually dry year in a row, making this look like a new normal.

Trent Frey is a meteorologist at the Detroit-Pontiac division of the National Weather Service. He says the Drought Monitor doesn't expect more of the state to fall into the drought zone, and it looks like rain is on its way to Michigan this week.

“They have an outlook out to ... I believe it was October 31. And they're not showing the drought expanding,” he says.

But for the state's farmers, this abnormally dry summer — combined with heavy rains at the beginning of the planting season — has already taken a toll.

Kate Theil, the field crop specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau, says farmers are using all sorts of strategies to minimize the effects of the weather, but they know it's ultimately out of their control.

“The proof will be in the pudding when we get into the harvest this year to see how detrimental exactly this dry weather has been,” Theil says.

Despite the challenges, Theil says Michigan’s crops haven’t experienced a widespread devastation this year. But she does worry that if things don't change in future years, Michigan's crop yield — and its economy — could suffer.

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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