Aug 1, 2012 8:46 PM by Matt Stafford

Drought remains, farm bill still questionable

The ground is drier than ranchers have seen in years, and it's causing problems for farmers and ranchers across the country.

"There's just no moisture; there's no moisture and no grass has grown at all," says Dixie Boyer, an eastern El Paso County rancher. "I think this at least equals 2002."

2002 was one of the worst droughts Boyer remembers.

"For about ten years the drought has been pretty severe and had quite an impact on our operation," says Boyer.

The Boyer's had to sell some cattle off last year, and likely will have to sell more this year. Normally this is the time of year ranchers rely on the land to provide for their cattle, but with nothing growing they have to buy hard-to-find hay; a big cost.

Some options for help have opened up; the Department of Agriculture is letting ranchers use land for grazing that's normally off-limits.

"This hasn't been grazed in 22 years on my right," Boyer says pointing out land that's part of the Conservation Reserve Program. The emergency level is high enough to change that this year; the Boyers hope to move some cattle there in a week or so. Right now they've had to move cattle off their usual grazing land to another space in Lincoln County with more grass.

That's not all Boyer says could help; the farm bill in Congress still hasn't passed, funding is tied up while legislators work out the details.

Which programs would Boyer be using?

"Oh, the LFP (Livestock Forage Program) and the SURE (Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program)," says Boyer. They both help pay for feed when disaster takes away grazing lands.

"Those two I would definitely use if they were still available this year," says Boyer.

She hopes that the bill passes and thinks it will.

"It might not be before the end of the year, but I believe they'll get one passed," says Boyer.

She says the sooner the better, others are dealing with the same conditions and many are just trying to hold on.

"I will be selling some more cattle as the year progresses, but I certainly don't expect to go out of business," says Boyer.

The way things have gone this year, a little optimism doesn't hurt.



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