Western drought makes things harder for farmers and ranchers who are already hurting

Lake Meade is the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam. It gives access to water to 25 million people and on June 9 it was measured in 1,071.57 feet above sea level. That was his lowest level … ever.

And it is is not expected stop there. A professor at the University of Las Vegas-Nevada told a local newspaper that the water level is expected to continue to decline until November. While there have been some wet years, such as 2019, since 2000, the West has experienced one of its driest periods spanning more than two decades in history. As of June 7, the country’s largest reservoir was only 36% full. Lake Meade is the source of approximately 90% of southern Nevada’s water.

But don’t think Nevada is the only one in trouble. States across the West are experiencing their biggest droughts in decades. In reality, they could be experiencing the worst prolonged drought. in the last 1,000 years.

This does not bode well for farmers. With their water allocations dramatically cut back, some growers fallow large portions of their land. Cattle producers, whose pastures are almost barren, are selling cattle as they have nothing to feed them. This has serious implications for the availability of food and prices in the area, since the affected region represents around a third of the monetary investment. value of US agricultural production.

According to the most recent US Drought Monitor, 96% from the West it is being racked by at least a partial drought. California and Nevada are now seated 100% level of drought after two years of excruciatingly dry conditions.

Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox banned fireworks the upcoming Christmas season and asked all citizens to pray for rain. More than 90% of that state is experiencing an “extreme drought.”

“Farmers and ranchers are being greatly affected by the extreme drought conditions this year,” said Craig Buttars, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Food. “Cattle feed will be scarce, so it will be even more pertinent that we have as much grassland as possible. Wildfires would be very bad for Utah farmers and ranchers. ”

The USDA has announced nearly 400 counties in the western part of the nation as natural disaster areas due to persistent drought, including most, if not all, counties of Arizona, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming. Natural Disaster Designations Make Producers and Ranchers USDA Eligible emergency loans, which may allow them to replace equipment and livestock if they need it, or assistance with financial reorganization.

According to USDA According to the data, farmers and ranchers generally must suffer crop losses of 30% or more, or a loss of livestock or other property. The maximum loan amount is $ 500 million, and borrowers generally must purchase crop insurance.

Currently, four states (Oregon, California, Colorado, and Arizona) can apply for $ 41.8 million in federal aid through the USDA, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP, which helps producers pay for conservation projects to protect natural resources and improve drought resistance. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service states that California farmers harvested only 515,000 acres of alfalfa in 2020, up from more than one million acres in 2010. Oregon’s alfalfa acreage also shrunk during that period by almost 14%.

TO Farmers Business Network report, an independent farmer-to-farmer network, anticipates that the drought will lead to higher cereal prices for farmers.

“Dry conditions have affected a wide swath of the US, especially in the West, where the drought is firmly entrenched and is not expected to find much short-term relief,” writes Kevin McNew in the article. “Faced with exceptionally tight supplies and skyrocketing demand, every bushel will be instrumental in helping to avoid even higher grain prices … (e) the previous season’s drought does not bode well for an exceptional production year in the US grain belt. The weather in June, July and August, the critical time for US corn and soybean crops, will determine whether farmers hit a home run or attack this season. “

The agriculture sector is a major contributor to the United States economy in many ways, from promoting food and energy security to creating jobs in rural communities. Data from the National Integrated Information System on Droughts (NIDIS) indicate that, in 2015, farms contributed almost $ 137 billion to the nation’s economy and represented 2.6 million jobs. According to NIDIS, other sectors related to agriculture and food contributed $ 855 billion to the economy and accounted for another 21 million full and part-time jobs.

As of 2020, the drought classified third among the environmental phenomena associated with multi-billion dollar weather disasters since 1980. This is behind tropical cyclones and severe storms. Also according to NIDIS, the cost of drought events averages more than $ 9 billion per year, with an annual cost of more than $ 6 billion.

In 2012, a severe drought affected 80% of farmland in the United States, causing more than two-thirds of its counties (1,820) to be declared disaster areas. The drought affected livestock production and extensive crops such as wheat, corn and soybean production in the Great Plains and Midwest and accounted for $ 14.5 billion in loss payments from the federal crop insurance program. In 2015, the impacts of the drought on California’s agricultural sector resulted in $ 1.84 billion in direct costs, a loss of 10,100 seasonal jobs and a surface water shortage of 8.7 million acre-feet.

Considered a worse drought, who knows what the impact of this will be. Only time will tell.

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