Drought news: Ag Commissioner John Salazar, et al., tour Northwest Colorado to learn about drought effects #CODrought

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From the Craig Daily Press (Jerry Martin):

The group included John Salazar, state agriculture commissioner; John Stulp, policy advisor on water; Al White, former Colorado Senator in District 8 and current director of the state tourism office; and representatives from other state and federal agencies.

The officials made three stops along the tour to meet with local ranchers and agriculture officials.

For White, a Hayden resident, the tour was mostly about showing his colleagues at the state capital what life has been like for ranchers and farmers in the Yampa Valley…

While the conversation at each stop touched on the effects the drought already has had this summer — such as ranchers deciding to liquidate their herds and hay their fields months earlier than normal — both ranchers and state officials voiced concerns about how the effects of the drought could extend into winter and spring…

Aside from voicing concerns, local ranchers also had the opportunity to tell state officials how government can help, a crucial part of the tour, said Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, drought and climate change technical specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board and one of the tour’s organizers…

Additionally, local ranchers and agriculture representatives told state officials they could help with irrigation, installment of water tanks, development of new springs and ponds, requests for water from the Colorado Water Trust, and arranging water releases from area reservoirs.

Hutchins-Cabibi said she thought the tour was successful. “(Visiting state officials) certainly felt like they got a really good gauge for what was going on on the ground, and where they could help and where they couldn’t help,” she said.

From The Denver Post (Roxana Hegeman):

…cattlemen throughout the middle and western part of the U.S. also are selling animals they can’t graze or afford to buy feed for. Beef from the animals now flooding livestock auctions will start showing up in grocery stores in November and December, temporarily driving down meat prices. But then prices are expected to rise sharply by January in the wake of dwindling supplies and smaller livestock herds…

It is likely to take the beef industry years to recover. Cows have a nine-month gestation period, and it can take up to two years after calves are born for them to grow big enough for slaughter. The time needed to repair drought-damaged pastures will only extend that timetable because ranchers must have grass for grazing before they can add animals…

Beef prices were already falling after rising 10 percent last year amid the drought in the Southwest. They peaked at an average of $5.09 per pound in January, and then came down to about $4.93 per pound in June. They are expected to increase again, but it’s not clear by how much. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had predicted a 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase in beef prices for the year, but that was before the drought spread and cattle selloffs mounted.

Here’s a release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union:

“USDA Secretary Vilsack and Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet responded swiftly to a call from the RMFU Board for urgent moves to address the economic disaster for farmers threatened by a historic nationwide drought, but the measures proposed are not addressing the immediate problem, according to RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer.

“When your house is on fire, it’s great to have insurance, but what you need is firefighters,” Peppler observed. “Senate Bill 3384, which is apparently stalled in the Senate, extends disaster relief programs in the 2008 Farm Bill and reduces the delay in getting payments to struggling farmers, but it won’t help people who are looking at losing their farms in the coming weeks because they can’t feed their stock and their crops are withering in the drought.”

Senators Udall and Bennet called on Secretary Vilsack to utilize all available resources to assist farmers and ranchers who are currently facing drought conditions in Colorado, and the Secretary responded by directing his department to administer conservation and crop insurance programs “with flexibility” to get assistance to farmers and ranchers quickly.

“Our senators for Colorado have demonstrated again that they are thoughtful and conscientious representatives of family farmers and ranchers,” Peppler said, “and we appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s swift response to the drought. But what is needed is a declared emergency disaster relief program, defined broadly enough to help producers not eligible for conservation programs or crop insurance. That means no quibbling over offsets, no political posturing on either side of the aisle, and no delays getting assistance to farmers and ranchers facing losses they may never recover from. For many of them, five or six months from now might as well be never. Corporate agriculture and tax dodge ‘farmers’ may be able to weather this drought, but the families who fire up a tractor every morning are looking at going under, some of them for the last time.”

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