ALLENDALE (WZZM) - It's been 26 days since West Michigan has seen any significant rain, and irrigation systems have been running around the clock.
All farmers in West Michigan use wells as their water source.
Some have shallow wells that only go down about 25 feet, while others have installed much larger wells that go down as far as 300 feet and pull water from aquifers.
Michigan Corn Growers Association President Jim Zook says most Michigan farmers don't irrigate; in fact, it's really only farmers in West Michigan that do so because their soil is sandy and therefore dries out quickly.
Most of the rest of the state has clay soil.
Allendale farmer Rick Sietsema operates his irrigation systems using a shallow well and says he's already used 50 percent more water than a normal summer. He still has 40 days to go before harvest.
His fields of green, instead of a dream, could soon look like a nightmare.
Sietsema is facing a grim reality; the extra $50,000 he's spent on irrigation this summer may soon also go right down the drain.
"We usually start irrigating our crops around the Fourth of July," Sietsema said. "We started the first of June this year, and, at a lot of our locations, our shallow wells are running out of water already."
This doesn't mean the water source is drying up, it means they're pumping faster than water can come out of the ground. It's an attempt to quench the thirst of West Michigan's quick-drying, sandy soil.
Sietsema's anticipating a 40- 60 percent crop loss, and says the corn that survives won't be top quality.
"Actually it will be very poor corn because the kernels will be very small," he said.
With 12 farms -- which include poultry and livestock -- he estimates losses will reach $10 million. But the dollar signs aren't on the top of his mind.
"That's the one thing most consumers don't understand in food production is that farmers have a connection to what they do and they really care, they really do," he said. "It's tough to see a crop suffer. It's tough. You put a lot of time and sweat into the efforts and the long weekends."
But Sietsema says it's equally hard to see his turkeys and hogs suffer because they don't have sweat glands.
"The only way they cool down is respiring. They breathe really heavy, and you can imagine someone with asthma in this temperature, the poultry and livestock have a very hard time," he said.
Fans help, as well as the hourly showers from a tractor that's gotten a lot more traction in the last month. In their 32 years of farming, the Sietsema's have never worn paths along the barn from spraying water like they have now.
While they can keep a somewhat steady mist on the animals, the same philosophy won't fall on the corn for much longer.
Sietsema has fields of corn that didn't receive irrigation that are completely destroyed. He says he will know by early next week how the rest of his corn crop will fare.
Zook says most fields need 11 inches of rain per acre over the next eight weeks to have a chance of surviving.