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Local farmer says drought is the latest challenge to agriculture industry

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Local farmers are experiencing drought conditions, but they say it's just the latest challenge they have faced in the last few years.

Some say they feel as though they're left with an uncertain future.

Take grain and dairy farmer Brent Pollard. For 15 years, he's been a farmer. He says this year has been unusual, for a lot of reasons.

"This spring has probably been the driest I've ever seen," Pollard explains.

It's the latest in a series of challenges he, and other farmers, have faced.

"With the trade war stuff and the weather in 2019 being too wet to COVID and the challenges there, and now, we're seeing this very dry weather," Pollard lists off. "It just seems like it's been one challenge after another."

Graphic courtesy of the National Drought Mitigation Center

This spring ranks the fifth driest on record, and Rockford has only seen half the rainfall it normally gets.

"If you go out into some of our fields, the spots where the plants are getting sort of yellowish, I mean they're stressed [and] they need some water," Pollard says.

Snowfall from the winter helped the soil, according to Pollard. He hopes that moisture can help him ride out this drought

The drought comes at a bad time for Pollard and other farmers, who are looking to rebound strong from the pandemic after the last year of uncertainty.

"School kids weren't drinking any milk at school or restaurants shut down, so they weren't using any cheese from that cheese plant," Pollard says, explaining how the pandemic impacted farmers.

He says the fluctuation in the milk market, along with prices and demand, is finally leveling off.

"It seems that prices are going up, so that must mean the economy is picking up too," Pollard says.

And as all remaining mitigations lift in just days when the state fully reopens, Pollard is looking forward to the period of normalcy in the market, even as he continues to battle the drought.

"Most farmers have to be long-term optimists," Pollard says with a smile.

He adds, in the last year, farmers have exported more goods to China, but he says the supply chain is fragile, and when one farm is impacted, it often has a ripple effect.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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