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Hot and dry June stifles North Carolina crops

A field corn crop in Wayne County turns brown due to high temperatures and low rainfall in June
North Carolina Farm Bureau
A field corn crop in Wayne County turns brown due to high temperatures and low rainfall in June

A persistent drought across the state could have lasting impacts on North Carolina crops.

The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council reports 99 counties are in some level of drought.

Last month was one of the driest Junes on record. The state Climate Office reports Chapel Hill got half an inch of rain during the entire month, well below the average of nearly four inches.

The lack of rainfall has wiped out many farmers' field corn crops and is stunting the growth of grasses that farmers' use for hay. Both are products farmers feed their livestock.

Shawn Harding, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, said that could lead to a feed shortage in the winter and continue increasing the price of meat.

"If anybody has gone out and tried to buy a steak recently, you know beef is pretty high," Harding said. "That's because we have a shortage of cattle in the United States, so we're hopeful that our beef farmers in North Carolina won't have to sell their cows because they don't have anything to feed them."

Much of the state finally got rain early Monday morning, but temperatures are expected to approach 100 again by the end of the week.

"Luckily, we have some great farmers who are great businessmen and diversify their operation," Harding said. "I think the rain we're getting this week should help some of the later crops: the cotton, the soybeans."

Harding said the North Carolina Farm Bureau is helping some farmers file crop insurance claims to help cover lost income from failed field corn crops.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.