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North Dakota experiencing severe drought

The view from the air flying over North Dakota reveals how dry it has been there this year. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows all of the state being either abnormally dry or in some stage of drought, and the Bismarck area is in a severe drought.

The severity of the drought in North Dakota was demonstrated recently by a letter that Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. sent Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking him to release Conservation Reserve Program acres to allow emergency haying.

The delegation told Perdue that, even though the state received some rain last week, the western half of North Dakota is experiencing an early season drought, having received less than 40 percent of normal rainfall thus far in June, while the central region of North Dakota, from the South Dakota border to the northern tier of counties, is listed in the "Severe Drought" category of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

Over half of North Dakota's pasture and rangeland is listed as being in "Poor to Very Poor" condition in the latest USDA Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, they noted.

"In North Dakota, the effects of this abnormally dry weather on pastures and hay crops have been devastating," the delegation wrote.

"Media accounts of herd liquidation at sales barns are common. Many North Dakota ranchers are being faced with having to decide whether to sell valuable assets of their livestock operations. The resulting downsizing of herds in North Dakota poses a long-term threat to the viability of the industry in our state especially given that a herd cannot be built overnight."

"That is why we urge you to allow emergency haying of CRP acres within the state of North Dakota," the letter said.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring told Red River Farm Network, "It is heartbreaking to see livestock producers lined up for almost a mile at auction markets. They're selling their genetics and there is nothing more devastating for them."

Goehring also noted that many North Dakota ranchers donated hay this spring to those producers impacted by the wildfires in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, and are now short on feed and are being forced to liquidate a portion of their cattle herd. ❖