Ex­treme drought sears North Dakota farms

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS -

BEULAH, N.D. — Drought in North Dakota is lay­ing waste to fields of nor­mally boun­ti­ful food and hay crops and sear­ing pas­tures that typ­i­cally would be home to mul­ti­tudes of grazing cat­tle.

Some long­time farmers and ranch­ers say it’s the worst con­di­tions they’ve seen in decades — pos­si­bly their life­times — and sim­ple sur­vival has be­come their goal as a dry sum­mer drags on with­out a rain cloud in sight.

“We’ve never been in this sort of boat, hon­estly,” said Dawn Martin, who raises beef cat­tle with her par­ents and hus­band in the south­west­ern part of the state, an area the U.S. Drought Mon­i­tor says is in “ex­treme” drought.

“We’re just try­ing to make it through and work it out,” she said. “There are a lot of peo­ple in the same boat. I don’t know what the an­swer is.”

The drought’s im­pact likely will be felt not just by farmers but also con­sumers, state Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Doug Goehring said. Agri­cul­ture in North Dakota is an $11 bil­lion-a-year in­dus­try, and the state leads the na­tion in the pro­duc­tion of nearly a dozen crops.

“It’s go­ing to af­fect bread at the gro­cery store counter,” Goehring said, though he didn’t put a fig­ure on how much costs might go up for shop­pers. “Dry beans — navies, pin­tos — are go­ing to be af­fected to a de­gree. Canola, that pro­duc­tion is go­ing to be cut, and that’s go­ing to have an ef­fect on vegetable oil.”

The lat­est Drought Mon­i­tor map shows nearly all of western North Dakota in se­vere or ex­treme drought, con­di­tions that ex­tend into north­ern South Dakota and north­east­ern Mon­tana. Most of the rest of North Dakota is in mod­er­ate drought or ab­nor­mally dry.

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