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Lake County borders on drought; County may be
eligible for CRP emergency grazing program

 

June 30, 2004 Herald and News

By DD BIXBY

Some Lake County ranchers may be up a creek this summer with drought conditions verging on serious, but perhaps not severe enough to qualify for federal relief.

On June 24, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman authorized emergency livestock grazing on certain lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in response to the severe drought conditions plaguing much of the West.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers and ranchers to set aside farmland in order to establish approved conservation practices.

 

Marti Hamilton, executive director of the Farm Services Agency in Lake County, said there are 3,494 acres enrolled in the CRP in Lake County that may apply for emergency grazing this year.

But to be eligible for emergency grazing, counties must have at least a 40 percent decline from normal precipitation levels.

Hamilton said Lake County was looking at precipitation numbers that were 84 percent of normal as of June 1.

"I don't think the precip numbers show how bad it is," Hamilton said.

In May, Lake County saw some scattered showers that Hamilton said skewed the report, and she expects the precipitation levels to be lower in the next report.

"We had good winter moisture but haven't had a lot since," she said. "And since June 1 it's just gotten hotter and dryer."

Lake County was listed in a moderate to severe drought area on the federal government's "Drought Monitor" Web site.

In severe drought-affected areas, impacts could include major crop and pasture losses, extreme fire danger and widespread water shortages or restrictions.

Hamilton said that even though Lake County has less than a 20 percent precipitation loss reported, they were notified by the state Farm Service Agency that Lake County may be eligible for emergency grazing this year.

"The application went out Tuesday," she said. "Hopefully we'll hear on our approval in the next few weeks."

There are 18 separate CRP contracts in Lake County, and owners of those lands will have the option of applying for emergency grazing.

During emergency grazing, federal CRP payment for the land is reduced by 10 percent.

The emergency grazing program only affects people with CRP contracts.

"We'll probably be requesting some emergency programs such as well drilling and water hauling," Hamilton said.

The Farm Service Agency county executive directors of Klamath, Siskiyou and Modoc Counties said they would most likely not ask for emergency grazing on CRP lands. Washoe County doesn't have any land in the program.

 

 

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