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Maine's drought is forcing some farmers to make tough decisions

The water level for Leary Farm in Saco is so low that employees say they may have to pick and chose which crops get enough water.

SACO, Maine — With much of Maine in moderate to severe drought, farmers in Cumberland and York counties are reporting reduced water levels, with some forecasting tough harvesting decisions on the horizon. 

Tim Leary with Leary Farm in Saco hasn’t checked on his water level in some time. He says he is trying to avoid the stress of knowing how low the level has gone down. 

"If we run out of water, we will pick and choose what we can water and we will just sacrifice something. ... We are at the point where we are getting low on water," Leary said.

His son, Kevin Leary, says the water is down by 15 to 20 feet, and has only seen it this low once before. 

RELATED: Drought conditions are damaging Maine farms and sensitive waterways

Meanwhile, his father Tim says the month of July saw little to no rain, and whatever showers passed through missed their farm.

"July and August gets dry, but we haven't seen that big front come across. ... So it's hit or miss showers and a lot of it misses us. I've seen it go this way and that way but it missed here," Leary said.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service of Maine, a branch of the USDA, told NEWSCENTER Maine that resources are available for farmers facing water crises.

Luis Aponte is the district conservationist for York and Cumberland Counties, and says more than half of the counties' land is in severe drought, according to drought.gov.

RELATED: Maine sees third consecutive year of drought

"We've seen... this year, at least 15 to 25 calls for irrigation... it's been a lot these last couple years," Aponte said. "It's been growing these last couple years with the big droughts we've been having. The number is expected to grow, it's huge."

Aponte says farmers facing a water issue can contact the USDA branch in Maine and apply for financial assistance for the fiscal year of 2023.

The deadline is Aug. 26, and farms can apply here.

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