Amber Betts, WSDA Communications
Washington's wheat crop is
expected to show reduction in yield
due to the drought this year.
In what looked like a promising year for snowpack, agriculture producers around Washington were hopeful this year would see adequate water supply resulting in healthy crop yields and a productive year. The spring season came and left with little to no rain, causing great concern especially for dryland producers.
Dryland producers are primarily in Eastern Washington state
and are without irrigation to rely on to water their crops or feed their
Our agricultural growers are telling WSDA that they are already experiencing yield reduction and other effects that could reduce revenues. Livestock producers also report having to buy feed sooner than expected, likely at a higher price tag, because grazing lands are drying up.
At WSDA, we work to ensure our federal and state partners hear the concerns of our ag producers. And the message was heard loud and clear.
In late June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a federal drought declaration for 14 primary and 10 contiguous counties in Washington. USDA’s drought monitor tool continued to monitor Washington state’s water supply and on July 6 triggered seven more primary and four more contiguous counties as disaster areas due to drought.
Then, last week, on July 14, Washington’s Department of Ecology declared a drought emergency for most of the state.
Declaring a drought means more than just acknowledging the hardship our producers are facing, it opens up opportunities for our agriculture partners to access programs, services, and funding to help alleviate the hardship caused by drought.
Ecology is able to expedite emergency drought permits, process temporary transfers of water rights, hold public education workshops and provide funding assistance for public entities, including irrigation districts. Ecology is currently in the process of identifying needs and potential funding.
The federal declaration means dryland farmers in the counties the disaster was declared allows for emergency loans that can be used to help the producer recover from this drought. Loans can be used for replacing equipment or livestock, or to reorganize the farming operation, or to refinance other debts. USDA’s Farm Service Agency also manages relief programs including the livestock forage program, where producers are eligible for payments to assist in buying feed for their livestock and the tree assistance program, as well as crop insurance.