MORE THAN 60% OF U.S. IN DROUGHT

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MORE THAN 60% OF U.S. IN DROUGHT

 user 2006-07-31 at 2:24:00 pm Views: 69
  • #16042

    More Than 60 Percent of U.S. in Drought
    STEELE,
    N.D. (July 06) – More than 60 percent of the United States now has
    abnormally dry or drought conditions, stretching from Georgia to
    Arizona and across the north through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana
    and Wisconsin, said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist for the National
    Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
    A
    farmer attempts to harvest the shriveled up wheat in his
    drought-stricken field near Linton, N.D. An area stretching from
    central North Dakota to central South Dakota is the most
    drought-stricken region in the nation, climatologists say.An area
    stretching from south central North Dakota to central South Dakota is
    the most drought-stricken region in the nation, Svoboda said.”It’s the
    epicenter,” he said. “It’s just like a wasteland in north central South
    Dakota.”Conditions aren’t much better a little farther north. Paul
    Smokov and his wife, Betty, raise several hundred cattle on their
    1,750-acre ranch north of Steele, a town of about 760 people.Fields of
    wheat, durum and barley in the Dakotas this dry summer will never end
    up as pasta, bread or beer. What is left of the stifled crops has been
    salvaged to feed livestock struggling on pastures where hot winds blow
    clouds of dirt from dried-out ponds.Some ranchers have been forced to
    sell their entire herds, and others are either moving their cattle to
    greener pastures or buying more already-costly feed. Hundreds of acres
    of grasslands have been blackened by fires sparked by lightning or farm
    equipment.”These 100-degree days for weeks steady have been burning
    everything up,” said Steele Mayor Walter Johnson, who added that he’d
    prefer 2 feet of snow over this weather.Farm ponds and other small
    bodies of water have dried out from the heat, leaving the residual
    alkali dust to be whipped up by the wind. The blowing, dirt-and-salt
    mixture is a phenomenon that hasn’t been seen in south central North
    Dakota since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Johnson said.North Dakota’s
    all-time high temperature was set here in July 1936, at 121. Smokov,
    now 81, remembers that time and believes conditions this summer
    probably are worse.”I could see this coming in May,” Smokov said of the
    parched pastures and wilted crops. “That’s the time the good Lord gives
    us our general rains. But we never got them this year.”Brad Rippey, a
    federal Agriculture Department meteorologist in Washington, said this
    year’s drought is continuing one that started in the late 1990s. “The
    1999 to 2006 drought ranks only behind the 1930s and the 1950s. It’s
    the third-worst drought on record – period,” Rippey said.Svoboda was
    reluctant to say how bad the current drought might eventually be.”We’ll
    have to wait to see how it plays out – but it’s definitely bad,” he
    said. “And the drought seems to not be going anywhere soon.”Herman
    Schumacher, who owns Herreid Livestock Auction in north central South
    Dakota, said his company is handling more sales than ever because of
    the drought.In May, June and July last year, his company sold 3,800
    cattle. During the same months this year, more than 27,000 cattle have
    been sold, he said.”I’ve been in the barn here for 25 years and I can’t
    even compare this year to any other year,” Schumacher said.He said
    about 50 ranchers have run cows through his auction this year.”Some of
    them just trimmed off their herds, but about a third of them were
    complete dispersions – they’ll never be back,” he said.”This county is
    looking rough – these 100-degree days are just killing us,” said Gwen
    Payne, a North Dakota State University extension agent in Kidder
    County, where Steele is located.The Agriculture Department says North
    Dakota last year led the nation in production of 15 different commodity
    classes, including spring wheat, durum wheat, barley, oats, canola,
    pinto beans, dry edible peas, lentils, flaxseed, sunflower and
    honey.North Dakota State University professor and researcher Larry
    Leistritz said it’s too early to tell what effect this year’s drought
    will have on commodity prices. Flour prices already have gone up and
    may rise more because of the effect of drought on wheat.”There will be
    somewhat higher grain prices, no doubt about it,” Leistritz said. “With
    livestock, the short-term effect may mean depressed meat prices, with a
    larger number of animals being sent to slaughter. But in the longer run
    it may prolong the period of relatively high meat prices.”

    Eventually, more than farmers could suffer.
    “Agriculture
    is not only the biggest industry in the state, it’s just about the only
    industry,” Leistritz said. “Communities live or die with the fortunes
    of agriculture.”Susie White, who runs the Lone Steer motel and
    restaurant in Steele, along Interstate 94, said even out-of-state
    travelers notice the drought.”Even I never paid attention to the crops
    around here. But I notice them now because they’re not there,” she
    said.”We’re all wondering how we’re going to stay alive this winter if
    the farmers don’t make any money this summer,” she said.