Extreme drought sears North Dakota farms
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.