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Farm News & Views - February 1st, 2022

The Four Corners Region has been quite dry in January, with less than two tenths of an inch of moisture recorded near Cortez at the beginning of the month. While the lack of snow has allowed farmers and ranchers to work outdoors feeding livestock, repairing building and fences and other projects that aren’t usually started during winter months, most are concerned that’ll pay a price for the pleasant weather when spring rolls around. The drought monitor map indicates that the Four Corners region is in extreme to severe drought again this year. Although the late December snow storms piled up some impressive snow totals, the lack of snow throughout January has left the region slightly better off this year than in 2021. For example, the NRCS SNOTEL Report for January 31st of 2021 indicated that combined average snowpack in the Dolores – San Miguel, Animas and San Juan river basins were 90% of average. As of yesterday, the average snowpack in these basins is 98% of the 30 year average.

Mc Phee Reservoir is about 44% of full, but drought is not just a concern in the Four Corners region, since farmers, ranchers, and water managers in the southwestern U.S. face similar, if not worse drought conditions. In New Mexico, a $48 million appropriation is proposed to expand a crop fallowing program along the Rio Grande, one of the longest rivers in North America, that provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of people from Colorado south to Texas and Mexico. The proposal would pay farmers to not plant their fields, which would keep irrigation water in the river. The governor of Utah and the state legislature are moving to spent almost $51 million to reverse the impacts of drought on the Great Salt Lake, which in October of 2021, had dropped below the record lowest level last set in 1963, and they’re looking to build and repair infrastructure that will help to save water in the state. In January of this year, farmers in central Arizona who depend on water from lake Mead, delivered through the Central Arizona Project, had their allocations cut by 50%. As of January 30th of this year, Lake Powell is 168 feet below Full Pool, which by volume, is about 26% of a full lake.

In response to drought in the state, the Colorado Agricultural Drought Advisors has scheduled a five part Drought Training program for farmers and ranchers over the next six weeks. The first virtual training session is on February 4th, titled Using Forecasts in Drought Planning. For a complete list of the virtual and in person training sessions, or to register, go to https://drought.extension.colostate.edu/, or call your local County Extension office.

Florida is set to harvest the smallest crop of oranges in more than 75 years, according to USDA projections, caused by freezes, orange groves being replaced by residential developments and citrus greening, a disease spread by insects that causes the fruit to drop before maturing, Florida is the country’s largest producer of juice oranges, and production is expected to be 200 million boxes less this year, which will likely drive up the price of orange juice in grocery stores.

Author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: “Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.