Drought news: Federal grazing relief extended for Colorado counties affected by drought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Grazing and haying on Conservation Reserve Program acreage was extended for a month. That means grazing or haying on the land will extend to Oct. 31 without further payment reduction. Producers must contact local Farm Service Agency offices to sign up and gain permission to graze. More than 2.2 million acres have been enrolled in CRP in Colorado, yielding $74 million in revenue to farmers and ranchers. Because of drought conditions, the land was opened for use this year, along with a 25 percent reduction in payments. As a second condition designed to help livestock producers, FSA will allow producers nationwide to utilize harvested hay from expiring CRP acres when those acres are being prepared for fall seeded crops.

Prior to this modification, all mechanically harvested hay was required to be destroyed. This change enables livestock producers to feed the hay that is mechanically harvested to their own livestock or to sell or donate hay. Consistent with existing policy for managed or emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acres, rental payments will be reduced by 25 percent for those using this option.

“We are eager to do all we can in the face of this drought crisis across the southern plains,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. “This has been one of the worst dry and hot spells since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.”

Here’s a primer about Colorado droughts from John F. Henz and William J. Badini writing for HDR Hydro-Meteorological Services. Here’s an excerpt:

Stephen Long, a U.S. Army lieutenant who passed through Colorado in 1822, giving his name to the most visible peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, wrote off the entire block of real estate that included Kansas, eastern Colorado and the Texas panhandle as “the great American desert.’’ His assessment was much the same as Pike, who preceded him, even as to the limiting factor of the plains:

The Great Plains region is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course inhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence. Although tracts of fertile land considerably exten- sive are occasionally met with, yet the scarcity of wood and water, almost uniformly prevalent, will prove an insuperable obstacle in the way of settling the country.

If we are to plan water supplies of Colorado’s future, a good place to start is in the understanding of Colorado drought: its history, its cycles, how we measure it, where it comes from and how we might plan for its occurrence in the future. The Drought of 1999-2002 in Colorado has provided a rude awakening to drought’s impacts on mod- ern life. A mandate to respond has been sounded. The time for decisive but meaningful action requires that we humbly appreciate and understand nature’s power.

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