Drought Forces Counties Into Emergency Grazing

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Because of severe drought conditions, farmers and ranchers in 13 more Nebraska counties can open up their Conservation Reserve Program acres to emergency grazing.

The Nebraska Farm Services Agency made the announcement Wednesday. Eleven counties were approved earlier this week.

At the behest of Governor Mike Johanns and the Nebraska Congressional delegation, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman authorized emergency grazing on CRP acres across the country last week.

To qualify, counties must be listed as either under extreme or exceptional drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, or have received at least 40 percent less than normal precipitation.

Emergency haying and grazing are not normally allowed before July 15, after primary nesting and brood rearing seasons for wildlife have finished. Veneman has authorized only grazing on the acres, not haying.

The following counties were approved Wednesday: Chase, Deuel, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson, Perkins and Red Willow.

The following counties approved earlier in the week are: Arthur, Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Garden, Kimball, Morrill, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan and Sioux.

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Drought Facts

  • A drought is a period of abnormally dry weather, which persists long enough to produce a serious hydrologic imbalance (for example crop damage, water supply shortage, etc.)

  • The severity of the drought depends upon the degree of moisture deficiency, the duration and the size of the affected area.

  • There are four different ways that drought can be defined:
    • Meteorological - a measure of departure of precipitation from normal. Due to climatic differences what is considered a drought in one location may not be a drought in another location.
    • Agricultural - refers to a situation when the amount of moisture in the soil no longer meets the needs of a particular crop
    • Hydrological - occurs when surface and subsurface water supplies are below normal.
    • Socioeconomic - refers to the situation that occurs when physical water shortage begins to affect people.

  • The Dust Bowl days of the 1930's affected 50 million acres of land, rendering the farmers helpless.

  • In the 1950's, the Great Plains suffered a severe water shortage when several years went by with rainfall well below normal.

  • The worst drought in 50 years affected at least 35 states during the long hot summer of 1988.

  • In 1988, rainfall totals over the mid-west, Northern Plains and the Rockies were 50 percent to 85 percent below normal.

  • During the great drought of 1988, Governor Guy Hunt of Alabama led a statewide prayer for rain. It came the very next day, and the thunderstorms continued for weeks.

Source: www.nws.noaa.gov (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) contributed to this report