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Indiana farmers welcome Friday's rain as they battle drought

Friday's rain was an answered prayer for many farmers across central Indiana.

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. — On the Mennen family farm in Boone County, every drop of rain that fell on Friday, July 8 was an answered prayer.

 “We need it,” Gerald Mennen said. “The next seven to 10 days are very critical."

 It could make or break this year’s yield.

Mennen farms about 1,200 acres with his wife and son. Their crops are growing in the middle of a drought, along with corn and soybeans across much of central Indiana.

“The heat has been the worst thing," Mennen said.

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It’s been a tough season from the get-go. A lot of Indiana’s crops were planted late this spring because it was too wet to get into the fields. Then came the drought, with temperatures soaring near 100 degrees, hotter than it’s been in central Indiana in nearly 10 years.

“If we don't get some significant rainfall and nice, slow and steady rain, then we can lose quite a bit,” said Dr. Pat Williams, an educator with Tippecanoe County’s Purdue Cooperative Extension Office.

The latest USDA crop report shows less than half the state's corn was in good or excellent condition.

According to experts, we need long and steady rain to penetrate soil that, in places, is as hard as a rock.

"It’s tough for the plants, it's tough for the farmers," Williams said.

And without more rain, it could be tough for consumers, too. Smaller yields will mean higher prices for livestock feed, which could mean higher food prices at the grocery store.

“So pork and chicken and beef will all be up,” Mennen said.

"Farming's a hard way of life,” Williams said. "Farmers love it and wouldn't do anything else, but Mother Nature is not being kind to them as we keep going on in years."

In his 44th year of farming, Mennen has lived through it all and calls it a way of life.

“You have to be willing to accept the good with the bad,” Mennen said. “We’ve done all we can do, so it's not up to us now — it's up to God."

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