Burdens trying to be eased on farmers/ranchers affected by drought

Farmers and ranchers are embroiled in one of the worst droughts to hit the nation since 1988. Although Cache County is better off than most places things could become worse before long. Four more counties in Utah were declared primary disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of the drought and the losses and damages associated with it. The total number of counties in Utah under this designation has risen to 20.

On KVNU’s Crosstalk show Monday, Arthur Douglas, state executive secretary of the Utah Farm Service Agency, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has given some advice on how to sustain livestock herds in drought-stricken states.

“One thing we’re going to do is open up emergency grazing on the conservation reserve program,” Douglas said, “and we’re going to lessen that burden by only charging a 10% reduction in their payment that will help sustain a lot of these cattle herds that have nothing to go to because they’ve been burned out of public lands and have nothing to come home to.

“That’s one thing the USDA is trying to do. Another one is low-interest loans, emergency loans.”

Douglas said Vilsack also agreed to relieve the burden further by reducing the interest on emergency loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent. Douglas said 78 percent of Utah’s water is used for agricultural purposes.

Leonard Blackham, director of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said his heart goes out to all the farmers and ranchers so adversely affected by the drought.

Blackham did say that there is some good news, the Grazing Improvement Program (referred to as GIP) is helping ranchers stay in business and improve their profitability in spite of the present conditions.

“The program has six regional boards throughout the state of Utah,” Blackham explained. “They have a coordinator in each of those regions to help ranchers. We help them develop improved projects on lands that they’re grazing, either improving the habitat or improving the water systems, or the fencing so they can do a better job in managing the cattle and caring for the land.”

Blackham says ranchers needing someone to come in and consult with them on the best options for improvement projects are invited to contact one of the regional coordinators.

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