Finding positive actions during drought
The drought continues here in northeast Montana, spreading towards the southwest and south central portions of our state, as well as in parts of North Dakota and South Dakota. Fires are raging throughout the drought area, and rural resources are ...
The drought continues here in northeast Montana, spreading towards the southwest and south central portions of our state, as well as in parts of North Dakota and South Dakota. Fires are raging throughout the drought area, and rural resources are strained. On many farms and ranches, resources are strained as well, leaving owners struggling to make the most of what crop is growing, what water is still flowing and what pasture they have left.
On our farm, we're doing what we can to mitigate effects from the drought. We're moving our cows to pastures normally not used until much later in the summer. We've purchased extra hay, and will begin the process of hauling loads in 500-mile round trips to bring it home. Water trucks are full and ready to roll at a moment's notice, and fire extinguishers are charged and stashed in every vehicle.
While we hay and once harvest starts, we'll have water trucks and other firefighting equipment on site with us. And we're starting to make contingency plans based on which fields will be able to be harvested and which might be adjusted through crop insurance, allowing us to use them as fall grazing, delaying the need to start feeding precious hay supplies.
Our focus this week is on fencing off some Conservation Reserve Program acres that we were able to obtain permission to graze. It means an extra expense, purchasing post, wire and clips. It also means extra time and manpower that would otherwise be spent working on equipment to have it harvest-ready, as well as extra time contacting landowners and coordinating sign-ups through the Farm Service Agency office. We're so grateful for the extra grazing, though, and we have some pretty happy cows as well!
For those of you unfamiliar with the process, CRP means, by definition, that "in exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length."
The program is administered through the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, and there are special rules for regular maintenance on these acres. During times of declared emergency though, such as drought, portions of CRP acres can be opened up for emergency grazing or haying - and that's what we've seen happen in our county and many surrounding counties this summer.
I mentioned that we've been taking action where we can to ease drought effects. Part of the process in having CRP acres eligible for emergency grazing and haying includes input from farmers and ranchers expressing a need for the extra resources, and we've taken part in that process. Contacting our elected officials, submitting drought reports through local weather services or extension offices and staying in touch with our local FSA offices has given us a way to advocate for ourselves and other producers. It also has helped us feel like we're doing something positive in a time of uncertainty when so many factors are out of our control.
I've seen many quotes talking about how we're one day closer to that big rain we all need, and it's so true! Until that day comes, though, let's all continue to take positive action. Let's look for ways to feel empowered, to stay involved with our communities and to be engaged and proactive.