Fall harvest time is traditionally a celebration of bountiful crops and overflowing granaries. But not this year.
"The double-edged sword of drought and low prices for most major Georgia commodities will cause extreme financial hardship for many Georgia farmers," says Bill Lambert, associate dean for the Cooperative Extension Service in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"Unfortunately, the immediate future looks like more of the same," Lambert says.
The two most profitable row crops in Georgia -- peanuts and tobacco -- have been hurt by reduced quotas and price supports. Farm water use may soon be restricted, and confined animal feeding farms may face costly requirements.
"The long-term future is in doubt for those who are not able to adjust their market, financial and production plans to the new agricultural economic environment," Lambert said.
John McKissick, a UGA extension agricultural economist, says any farmers face cash flow problems.
"Some farmers will make it with relatively minor changes in farm and family finances, while others cannot survive the long-term trends," McKissick says. "Farmers who have to make major adjustments just to survive will need help coping with both the emotional and financial stress caused by the crisis."
To help farm families through the continuing crisis, the Extension Service is working with the Georgia Christian Council, Georgia National Fair, certain government agencies and lending institutions to sponsor a training session in Macon, Nov. 30. Extension agents throughout Georgia are putting together county teams made up of ministers, lenders and agency representatives for the "Helping Georgia Farmers at Risk" training.
The teams will learn more about the crisis, how to help families cope with the stress, debt management strategies, farm restructuring alternatives and counseling skills.
"This crisis could last for quite some time," Lambert said. "We have to equip our rural communities to support farm families through this difficult situation."