Drought, heat hurting farmers; could potentially hurt grocery prices

To Tommy Simpson, farming is a calling. But when Mother Nature starts calling the shots, no amount of skill can salvage his cows or his crops.

Simpson runs Four Maples Farm in Loudon, along with three other farms, and said the drought and constant heat means there's not enough grass nor corn to feed his cows.

On some of his farms, he's already feeding them hay, something he usually holds off doing until the end of November. He's even had to sell some of his cows.

Drought conditions are creating problems for local farmers and if it continues, it could mean groceries get more expensive.

"It's the first time that we've had good tobacco, good corn, good soybeans, all at the same time, said John Goddard, a Loudon County Agent for UT's Agricultural Extension.

But if it doesn't rain soon, that will no longer be the case, Goddard said, adding people might have to pay more for meat, soybeans, even honey. How much more depends on how much rain there is in the near future.

Simpson said this is one of the hottest summers in years. But when it comes to a business that relies on Mother Nature, it's all a game of chance.

"It's part of farming, it's gambling. You just take the good with the bad and hope for a better year next year," Simpson said.

Simpson said he already can't make a profit on his corn supply. He's hoping for enough rain to help him break even, but said at this point, it's not likely. He does have insurance on his crops and cattle.