South Central Nebraska Desperate for Rain - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

South Central Nebraska Desperate for Rain

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"The worst drought in fifty years" -- that's how many farmers in the state, especially those in the south central region describe the current lack of water.

Irrigation helps of course, but unless rain comes many crops could simply dry up. Farmers say it takes at least 24 inches of water to grow crops. Farmers in the lower Republican region said one to two inches of rain is not going to solve the problem.

"I have never seen it this dry this early in the year," said Wayne Hinrichs, a retired farmer from Hildreth. Farmers in the lower, middle and upper Republican area make sure the water they do have is used sparingly. "We do not waste water,” added Hinrichs.

Growers in the area turned to drip irrigation using center pivots to help deal with recent irrigation rules making it even more difficult in times of drought. "Powers that be have restricted us. Five year, 45 inches, which mathematically gives you nine inches a year,” explained Bill Bunger, an Upland farmer.

"Farmers are really adaptive; they know how to get the most of what they are given and that's one thing maybe the restrictions have done, that has made us really efficient," said Hinrichs.

Being smart with their water might not help this third year, where it's considered a shortage year, meaning less than ever. "I dug a pit over here on property we have and that has never ever been empty in fifty years and it is dry today," said Bunger.

"Within five miles of here they had an inch and a half," Bunger said of the rains that have come. "We just got missed, we get missed, we get missed and we get missed."

When storms do roll in, it doesn't come slow enough to soak up in the soil or it comes in the off season. "We are in a situation here that we are in uncharted waters," said Bunger.

They just hope help will come from above, and soon. "Farmers are all very optimistic; if we wouldn't be, we wouldn't be a farmer. We always think it's going to rain; we never give up."

Farmers in south central Nebraska say they will need at least ten inches of rain water to have a decent harvest.
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