From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Sara Waite):
[John Berge, acting deputy administration for field operations for the Farm Service Agency] was in Sterling Thursday to give an update to local producers about what the U.S. Department of Agriculture is doing to mitigate the impact widespread drought and sustained high temperatures on farmers and ranchers. He also sought input from producers on other ways the USDA might be able to help.
For the last six to seven weeks, the percent of the country that is classified as in drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor has grown — to the point that more than 60 percent of the contiguous U.S. is now listed as moderate to exceptional drought. The drought has been called a “flash drought,” meaning that it came on quickly and caught many by surprise. While stream flows across the nation had provided an early warning, Berge said nobody was expecting the hot, dry weather that has held large portions of the country hostage this summer…
After explaining what the USDA has done so far, he asked the handful of producers at the meeting to share ideas on what the department could do that wouldn’t require Congressional action.
One concern that was mentioned was about the penalties that can be assessed for overgrazing of CRP land. The USDA has released CRP acreage for emergency grazing and haying; the forage can be used for the owner’s operations or can be sold or donated. However, the landowners can be fined for time periods going back to the beginning of their contracts if a spot check finds the ground cover is damaged.
One suggestion was that if the landowner allows someone to graze cattle, they have a lease agreement that states the cattle producer is responsible for any fines due to overgrazing. Another suggestion was to hay the CRP acreage, or allow a producer to hay it, to ensure that the grass is cut to the requirements of the program.
Berge noted that the local Farm Service Agency board can also assist with relief in cases where penalties have been assessed. While spot checks are needed to ensure the integrity of the program, “This administration is going to be as flexible” as the government ever has been on penalties, Berge said.
From the Colorado Climate Center (Wendy Ryan) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:
• July was the first month since February that wasn’t the warmest on record in Fort Collins. Last month, with an average temperature of 54.7 degrees, was the third-warmest July in 124 years of record keeping at CSU.
• No high temperature records were shattered last month.
• Last month was the 13th wettest July on record, and 3.11 inches of rain fell at the CSU weather station last month.
• So far, 6.6 inches of wet precipitation have fallen in Fort Collins this year, or 4.16 inches below average. That makes 2012 the 14th driest year on record so far. It’s also the hottest year on record in Fort Collins.