Daily rains pour problems for farmers

7:31 PM, Aug 7, 2013   |    comments
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Pasco County, Florida -- Armed with a heavy hoe, Jason New labors under the searing sun on Wednesday whacking at weeds. But despite the heat, the sun hasn't been shining as much as this Dade City farmer would like. The nearly daily rains we've been getting have been great for weed production, but not so hot for his hot peppers.

"See that black top," he says pulling a pepper with a black stem off a plant. "That was because of too much rain and it split and started to rot," he explains.

Through his company Sicman's Hot Peppers and Powders, New sells his peppers to hot sauce makers, but all the rain is cutting into his pepper profits. 

"It drops the pods. I've probably lost just as many peppers due to the rain that I've shipped," says New.

Just down the road Jose Alba says he needs dry days to fight disease in his kumquat trees. The steady rains have hampered his spraying efforts. 

"When I see the skies get dark, I stop it -- have to stop it," he explains from his tractor.

At Glory Road Gardens in Lutz, the owner says it's always a challenge to grow his microgreens in the summer, but the rain has made matters worse. The tiny plants he harvests for high-end restaurants are suffering from root rot and mold.

Over at Allie Cone's place the grass may be greener, but so far this summer Cone's Bahia grass has fields haven't produced any green for his pockets. His mower and baler have stood idle.

"I haven't baled anything this year. I haven't even tried to," says Cone, standing in one of his green fields.

Cone uses giant rolls of hay to feed his own cattle and he also sells it to other ranchers, but so far this summer there haven't been enough dry days in a row to produce a crop. You've heard the phrase -- Make hay while the sun shines -- well, that's exactly what Cone needs to do and he'd like to hear this forecast:

"No rain for about seven days," he says with a laugh.

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