Why Brown Has New England Feeling Blue

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It's not exactly agriculture, but the drought currently affecting the eastern United States and parts of the Midwest appars to be having a devastating effect on another rural crop: fall foliage. The lack of moisture has caused trees in New England and beyond to dry up and turn brown ahead of schedule. This has local businesses worried that the lack of foliage could cause tourists to make like a tree and, well, not show up at all those cute bed-and-breakfasts. And that could shave a considerable chunk of the estimated $8 billion that leaf-peepers pump into the regional economy.

With a lot of tourists chasing a few leaves, the competition is beginning to get stiff. The Connecticut Chamber of Commerce says that everything's fine — you just might want to come by to view the trees a week or two earlier this year — and recently took out ads in 11 magazines to reinforce the message. The state of Maine will post weekly foliage updates beginning September 15. In Vermont, state officials smugly point out that the drought hasn't hit their state as hard, especially in the northern half. Meanwhile, Rhode Island, suffering through its worst summer for rain in recorded history, has given up on promoting leaves and instead would like you to know that there are plenty of other pleasant things to do in the Ocean State. Fall branch tour, anyone?