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Drought To Have Lasting Impact On Minnesota's Christmas Tree Farms

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's summer drought may be felt in winters to come, when finding the perfect Christmas tree could be harder and more expensive.

Seventy-five percent of Minnesota is in a severe drought or worse right now, which has been tough on local tree farms. Trent Johnson is the owner of B&J Evergreen in Clear Lake.

"I'm hoping tonight everyone does a rain dance," Johnson said.

His farm consists of tens of thousands of trees, most of which are destined to end up in living rooms in December. He says the bigger ones that will be sold this Christmas are more resilient to adversity, including lack of water. It's the younger trees that are more likely to struggle without water.

"A lot of growers have lost a large percentage of their trees in certain pockets in the Midwest this year," Johnson said. "Eight, 10 years from now, that plays out."

Young Christmas Trees
(credit: CBS)

That's when Johnson says Christmas trees could get scarce and prices could go up. First, growers are focused on getting through the summer, according to Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen.

"No doubt the number one issue here at Farmfest is drought," Petersen said. "The outlook for the rest of the month, this is just the dry time of the year unfortunately, is probably going to get a little bit worse if we don't get some timely rains."

Johnson has gotten creative on his farm, building a custom-made watering device that conserves water. But he says a cooperating Mother Nature is still the best business partner.

"I think I'll grow about three, four inches when that weight comes off my shoulder when we get that good rain," Johnson said.

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