USDA declares drought disaster in seven ND counties
16 North Dakota counties eligible for federal assistance
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 13:09
The USDA declared agricultural disaster in seven North Dakota counties Wednesday after a statewide assessment of crop damage and production loss found severe drought damage.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple requested the USDA assess North Dakota for agricultural damage due to drought on July 27 according to a press release from Gov. Dalrymple.
The USDA declared seven counties disaster zones and found 16 counties total eligible for federal assistance.
The seven disaster counties are: Barnes, Cass, Grand Forks, Griggs, Nelson, Steele and Trail.
Another nine bordering counties in North Dakota and Minnesota are also qualified for federal assistance.
“100 percent of North Dakota is experiencing some sort of drought right now,” Dr. F. Adnan Akyuz, a State Climatologist at NDSU, said.
Low precipitation and high temperatures are causing the drought.
Akyuz explained the Midwest has always fluctuated between drought and flood extremities since the beginning of records in 1881.
There has been a trend since fall 2011 of warm, dry weather in North Dakota. Fargo has seen the warmest 184 days on record between March and August.
Last winter N.D. received only 26 inches of snow out of a 50-inch average.
The little rainfall that N.D. does get is evaporated into the air as part of a natural process, Akyuz said. Normally air would also be cooled through evaporated water, but since the soil is dry there is no moisture to evaporate into the atmosphere and the air temperature continues to increase.
With the general lack of precipitation as well as the evaporation of the little precipitation that falls there is not enough water left for the crops.
Farmers usually rely on natural irrigation: rainwater, Akyuz said.
Even with the record breaking numbers North Dakota is in a mild drought compared to the rest of the plains territory.
Parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, and Colorado are in “ D4 Exceptional Drought,” while North Dakota is in a “D2 Severe Drought” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor Map.
“Most of the problem is in the heart of the United States,” Akyuz said. “It is horrible in fact. The corn in these fields is non existent.”
This is where the burden lies for many farmers. They have contracts that promised a crop yield and now have to pay creditors for a product that did not grow. This is why the federal government has made the drought disaster zones eligible for loans at low interest rates to lessen their financial burden.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands will also be available for livestock grazing and haying according to a press release from the USDA.
The extra costs for farmers will be reflected in increased food prices at local grocery stores Akyuz said.
“Everyone in the U.S. will be affected,” Akyuz said. “This is the bread basket that feeds the rest of the world; it will indirectly affect the whole world.”
Damage assessments of North Dakota crops will continue through this fall. If severe drought continues more disaster declarations could be made, the press release says.