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Drought conditions drying fields, impacting farmers

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WEST VIRGINIA (WTRF) – A prolonged shortage of rainfall is sparking a State of Emergency across West Virginia.

Governor Jim Justice made the declaration on Thursday. This comes two weeks after the Governor issued an outdoor burning ban late last month.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture said 18% of the Mountain State is in a severe drought.

According to the Governor’s office, rainfall is two to five inches less than normal, shriveling up crops and drying rivers, creeks, and streams. Conditions are the worst in southern portions of the Mountain State. In the Northern Panhandle conditions vary from abnormally dry to moderate.

As the fields are drying, farmers are using their winter supply of live stock, which is also a concern for the state Department of Agriculture.

If you have a drought, you get more weeds because we have a lot of drought resistant weeds in the area, such as the thistle. That’s not good for the animals.

Belmont County Humane Officer Julie Larish

Though she doesn’t farm in West Virginia, Larish said she’s feeling the burn of the drought on her Ohio pastures.

The weather seems like it’s perfect but its not perfect for the animals in the fields.

Belmont County Humane Officer Julie Larish

There are also added health risks for farm animals enduring the unseasonable heat, as most of their winter coats are now growing in.

Now that we’re getting 80to 90 degrees there’s added insulation in there and there’s the risk of heart stroke and exhaustion. The daylight hours determine how fast their coat is growing. It’s their internal clock to get them ready for winter time.

Belmont County Humane Officer Julie Larish

While crops and livestock food are expected to keep drying up, The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is asking farmers to check with their local farm service agency for resources. They also advise to report any drought conditions or livestock deaths.

The State Department of Agriculture said it is currently working with several other agencies to help gather resources for farmers effected by the statewide drought.

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