The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) surveyed farmers & ranchers in 13 states in the Western U.S. to find how drought conditions are impacting farmers. Danny Munch, AFBF Associate Economist, said the survey shows the severe drought is impacting famers and ranchers’ ability to operate profitably.
"Over 85 percent rated selling off portions of their herd or flock as prevalent or higher, 87 percent of respondents say there’s an increase in feed costs associated with drought, 77 percent of them reduced their acreage and see that as prevalent or higher within their region," Munch said. "So, making a lot of different operational-level changes to really deal with drought conditions."
For crop farmers, Munch says many report tilling under or destroying crops to deal with any potential future loses in production.
"That was rated as moderately prevalent," Munch said. "We know in certain areas where there’s specialty crops, like out in California with your almond trees, some producers were bulldozing almond trees or kind of pruning off your fruits and veggies to save the trees. So, you’re really experiencing major changes on a lot of these farms and orchards to deal with a lack of water."
Munch added that many farmers are dealing with water shortages.
"86 percent of our respondents said that they’ve experienced reduced water deliveries with most of that being very prevalent across the board," Munch said. "And that really links back to such a low amount of water in all of the reservoirs that farmers and ranchers rely on out west."
According to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Utah's 2021 water year total now stands at a paltry 4.1 inches of precipitation, on average, at Utah’s SCAN sites. Recent reporting showed that 98% of Utah is listed as having "extreme or "exceptional" drought conditions.
"Unless we receive significant precipitation this summer and fall, we will enter next year’s snowpack season with another soil moisture deficit, which will again necessitate an above-average snowpack just to get average runoff," said Jordan Clayton, Supervisor and Data Collection Officer, in Utah's NRCS office. "Utah’s reservoirs are very unlikely to see substantial gains until next spring’s runoff. Based on current precipitation and soil moisture conditions, we really need next winter’s snowpack to be outstanding to preclude a continued decline in our reservoir storage levels. However, we could potentially be looking at statewide reservoir storage in the 15-20% of capacity range (or worse) by the end of next summer if conditions remain similar to this year."
Those interested in reading the most recent Climate & Water Report (July 1) can do so by clicking HERE.