BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Drought that is ravaging crops, pastures and hay land in North Dakota has worsened over the past week. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows nearly three-fourths of the state in some stage of drought, up from about two-thirds last week. And 55 percent of the state is in severe or extreme drought, up from 47 percent. The worst areas are in the west, with much of the east rated as abnormally dry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated numerous counties in the Dakotas and Montana as natural disasters, paving the way for federal aid.
GOLDEN VALLEY, N.D. - Gov. Doug Burgum and State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring pledged Wednesday to use every available tool to help drought-stricken ranchers outlast the current crisis and protect North Dakotans affected by intensifying wildfires.
More than 80 ranchers and residents attended a town hall meeting organized by the governor at the Golden Valley Community Hall, sharing stories of crops and pastureland devastated by parched soils. One rancher said his 1,500 acres normally produce 3,000 to 4,000 bales during an average year, but this year produced only 71 bales.
"Extreme drought has created a full-blown crisis in western and central North Dakota, pushing many family farmers and ranchers into survival mode," Burgum said. "Agriculture is the bedrock of our communities and our economy, and the pain of this drought will be felt across North Dakota, from Main Street to the State Capitol. Our livestock producers are especially hard-hit, and we're committed to seeing them - and all North Dakotans - through this extraordinarily stressful time."
"After a harsh winter with record snowfall, farmers and ranchers now face the 'double whammy' of an extended dry spell, with nearly half the state plagued by extreme or severe drought," Goehring said. "We commend these producers for their outstanding stewardship of their land and animals, and we must do our very best to support them during this increasingly difficult period. The long-term viability of our livestock industry depends on it."
To help provide relief to struggling ranchers, Burgum signed an executive order suspending the 150-mile limit on the distance that farm license vehicles can transport livestock, hay and water supplies from an operator's farm. That action followed a separate executive order Monday waiving hours of service and weight limits for commercial haulers supporting drought-stricken ranchers. Drivers using the waivers are reminded that the North Dakota Highway Patrol requires them to keep a copy of the executive order in their vehicle. The orders can be found on governor's website at www.governor.nd.gov.
Burgum also announced Wednesday that, at his request, State Engineer Garland Erbele has authorized an additional $75,000 for the State Water Commission's Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Program. The Commission re-activated the program about three weeks ago and has already approved 80 water supply projects, exhausting the initial funding of $250,000. The State Engineer can authorize up to $75,000 for projects without approval from the Commission, which the governor chairs.
The cost of eligible projects pending approval already exceeds the additional $75,000, but those interested in the cost-share program are still encouraged to apply.
Goehring, who also serves on the Commission, urged affected farmers and ranchers to be aware of how drought stress may be affecting their mental health and to utilize the Agriculture Department's mediation and credit counseling programs if needed.
Burgum and Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, also outlined the state's response to the increasing wildfire situation. Firefighters with the North Dakota Forest Service are helping local fire departments where requested, while eight Guard helicopters with water buckets are ready to assist if requested and jurisdiction allows.
Information on drought and wildfire conditions is available at www.NDresponse.gov. More extensive drought resources for farmers and ranchers are available through the Agriculture Department's website at www.nd.gov/ndda and the NDSU Extension Service at www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension.
FARGO, ND, - Based on July 1 conditions, North Dakota's 2017 spring wheat crop is forecast at 196 million bushels, down 27 percent from last year, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Average yield is forecast at 38.0 bushels per acre, down 8.0 bushels from 2016. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 5.16 million acres, down 12 percent from a year ago.
Durum wheat production is forecast at 29.2 million bushels, down 50 percent from last year. Average yield is forecast at 27.0 bushels per acre, down 13.5 bushels from 2016. Area to be harvested for grain is expected to total 1.08 million acres, down 25 percent from a year ago.
Winter wheat production is forecast at 1.52 million bushels, 27 percent below the June 1 forecast, and down 74 percent from last year. Average yield is forecast at 38.0 bushels per acre, down 10.0 bushels from 2016. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 40 thousand acres, down 67 percent from a year ago.
Barley production is forecast at 22.6 million bushels, down 47 percent from last year. Average yield is forecast at 55.0 bushels per acre, 12.0 bushels lower than 2016. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 410 thousand acres, down 36 percent from last year.
Oat production is forecast at 5.10 million bushels, down 30 percent from last year. Average yield is forecast at 51.0 bushels per acre, down 15.0 bushels from 2016. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 100 thousand acres, down 9 percent from a year ago.
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