GRAY'S CREEK, N.C. — Unlike the drought-stricken Midwest, the corn crop in North Carolina is flourishing.
More than half of the nation's corn crop is in poor condition, but Tar Heel farmers are more fortunate for a change.
"It's really big around and has lots of rows around it," Cumberland County farmer William Gillis said Thursday as he examined an ear of corn in his fields.
Gillis' family farms 2,000 acres in Cumberland and Robeson counties, and he said the afternoon and evening storms that have been rumbling across the region regularly in recent weeks have left him and other local farmers in a sunny disposition.
"As long as you're getting the rain that we were getting along with the hot temperatures, it really doesn't affect it as much," he said.
The dark green stalks are in stark contrast to 2011, when North Carolina fields were gripped by an extensive drought. Then, ears of corn shriveled under the scorching sun, and dry leaves and stalks crackled.
"To have three drought years in a row would be tough. We're kind of due for a decent corn crop," Gillis said.
Cumberland County lost 80 percent of its corn crop last year. Gillis said he expects a 40 percent increase per bushel this year.
The green stretches beyond the fields, with the prices for corn and crops such as soybeans and peanuts on the rise because of the Midwest drought.
"For us to have such a good year, we all know that somebody else had to have a bad year," Gillis said. "Not everybody gets a good year all over."
WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said regular rains in May and July helped wipe out the effects of a dry winter across the state. Forecasts call for a wetter-than-normal weather pattern in mid-Atlantic states next week, and that could continue for the rest of the summer, he said.
Agriculture extension agent Colby Lambert said that, barring any damaging tropical storm, the area corn crop should be the best in years.