Drought disaster declaration impacts farmers
Agriculture already hurting due to lack of water
Drought conditions persist across Colorado. It's bad enough that most of the state has been declared a disaster area due to current and future agricultural losses.
"We have numerous folks indicating that they are having large losses because of the drought this year," said Corey Hicks, County Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency.
It's been a dry year in Colorado with most of the Western Slope seeing less than half the normal precipitation it should have by this time of year. Much of the area is in extreme drought with some portions of northwest Colorado being upgraded to exceptional drought, the highest level that is monitored. The drought had led to a disaster declaration for almost every county in the state.
"This current designation, it opens up emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency," Hicks said.
Farmers will have eight months after the declaration date of July 3rd to apply for emergency loans.
The Farm Service Agency also says there are more tax breaks for those who qualify. They are asking impacted farmers to get in touch with them. More help could be coming too, pending legislation.
"We're kind of in between Farm Bills. A couple of our disaster programs actually expired last September and they were definitely tied to a disaster designation."
Right now, the Farm Service Agency doesn't know what else could be included in that bill, but they do have normal programs that can help farmers out.
"Currently, we have some programs that are not necessarily tied to the declaration like the NAP, non-insured assistance program which is one that we administer. People buy a coverage for their hay crops, let's say, or fruit crops that they can't get regular coverage for," Hicks said.
It is still early in the year and while farmers down in the valleys may still have irrigation water, those in the higher valleys are already suffering. A lack of snow this winter has left little for pastures. That problem is likely to trickle down into the valley unless Mother Nature can offer up an awful lot of rain.
We spoke with vendors at Grand Junction's Farmer's Market on Thursday evening. Most felt that they were having good growing seasons so far but worried about possible water shortages late in the year, and even more so, if the snow doesn't come next winter.
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