For Utah farmers, another year of drought

Some farmers and ranchers in Utah and other drought-ravaged Western states are eligible for emergency government loans linked to the USDA declaring 256 counties as natural disaster areas. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

<span>SALT LAKE CITY – It may only be February, but several drought-ravaged counties in Utah and other Western states already are under a “primary natural disaster declaration.”</span>

<span>Val Dolcini, administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, said the action opens up financial assistance programs to farmers and ranchers who have endured losses and damages because of the recent drought.</span>

<span>”Designation is sort of the door-opener for these benefits that could be low-interest emergency loans,” he said, “but it could also be participation in the Emergency Conservation Program, or a long list of other USDA programs.”</span>

<span>In Utah, the designation applies to Box Elder, Juab, Kane, Millard, San Juan, Tooele and Washington counties, as well as several contiguous counties. Regionally, the USDA has declared primary natural disaster areas in counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas.</span>

<span>The drought situation may not improve any time soon. The most recent National Climate Assessment report conducted by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded that as temperatures continue to rise, droughts in the Southwest will be longer, and drier conditions will cause more major wildfires. Dolcini said climate change has impacted farming nationwide.</span>

<span>”It’s hard to deny that the climate has changed over the years, and the impact that that has on industries like agriculture is also hard to deny,” he said. “We’ve seen incredible droughts over the course of the last four or five years, really, throughout many parts of the United States.”</span>

<span>The USDA has issued natural-disaster declarations for several years as the drought has continued and intensified across much of the western United States. Farmers and ranchers remain eligible for the USDA assistance programs for eight months from the date the designation was issued.</span>

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