Dry conditions are impacting farmers throughout Warren County.
Jeffrey Fowler, District 2 director for Penn State Extension, said the weather certainly has the potential to affect crop yields. Right now, he said, the ones taking the brunt of the damage are hay crops.
"There's not sufficient moisture quality to make a second cutting," Fowler said on Tuesday. "We're coming to a crucial stage."
Sheryl Vanco stands among some of her corn crop.
Corn crops need water, Fowler said, adding that he recently saw some corn in the area starting to roll or pineapple. That happens when leaves roll up on themselves because it's so dry.
According to Fowler, timely rains are needed to stave off damage. Without them, he said, farmers have little alternative.
"We don't have irrigation systems in the county except for those used by smaller vegetable producers," Fowler said.
The lack of irrigation systems can be attributed to the lay of the land, Fowler said, as well as the expense of the systems. Those obstacles can be daunting for farmers with hundreds of acres of corn, and so they rely on rain.
While it has also been excessively hotter than normal, Fowler said the heat is not bad as long as moisture comes with it. Across the area, he said, rains have been spotty.
Sheryl Vanco, co-owner of Vanco Farms in Lottsville, has seen the dry conditions impact her crops. She also serves as chair of the Pennsylvania Farm Service Agency State Committee which helps make drought determinations.
To feed the 75 cows on the farm, Vanco said workers have had to haul food to them every day because there isn't enough grass in the pastures for them to eat.
Instead of moist soil, Vanco said her corn is surrounded by dusty dirt. For this area, she said, that's unusual.
"Some parts of Pennsylvania had too much rain in May," Vanco said. "It seems that's the way it always is. But it's usually someone else who has a drought."
For her garden, Vanco said she has resorted to administering water by hand. A neighbor is also using irrigation for pumpkin crops.
Charles Ross, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service's office in State College, said it started to get dry last month. Warren County isn't alone, he said, as most of the state has the same problem.
Many areas are about two inches below average precipitation, Ross said, and the impact of dry weather is in the beginning stages. While the National Weather Service doesn't make drought declarations, he said the organization can influence those determinations by reporting weather information to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP Spokeswoman Amanda Witman acknowledged the western part of the state has experienced dryness, but there has been no drought watch or warning for any county in the state. Next week, she said, there will be a meeting of the Pennsylvania Drought Task Force.
The task force could possibly move forward with advisories for parts of the state affected, Witman said, and would make determinations on a county-by-county basis. To measure drought, she said, the agency uses four different tools: the Palmer Index, surface water, precipitation and groundwater.
Currently, Witman said Warren County is on watch for surface water and the Palmer Index. There is also a warning for precipitation.
In addition, Witman said officials consider what's going on in the surrounding areas when declaring drought.
Ruth Miller, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said the governor would need to enact a disaster declaration and then request federal funding to receive aid. To reach the public assistance threshold, she said, the state would need to reach $16.5 million in damages, which is a figure based on population.
By the time assistance gets approved, Vanco said, it doesn't begin to cover losses. Even for those who have crop insurance, she said payments are only given after a 30 percent total loss.
According to Vanco, good hay yields on the first cutting could make that 30 percent requirement tough to meet.