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OUR VIEW: Historic droughts tests farmers and ranchers

When huge amounts of winter snow piled up this past winter around the state closing schools, interstates and trains, flooding was certainly the big concern. Few, if any, then could imagine that spring and early summer would come and go without any real measurable precipitation.  Flooding is nothing new to our state but North Dakotan’s knows that too much water can be a problem but drought can be a disaster.

This week the U.S. Drought Monitor raised the North Dakota land in extreme drought to 36 percent and 95 percent of the state at the very least is abnormally dry. The drought has affected almost every part of life in our state. It has fueled wildfires, canceled Independence Day celebrations, necessitated burn bans, decreased fireworks sales and, of course, hit agriculture the hardest.

North Dakota Agriculture commissioner Doug Goerhing, a third generation farmer, says this is the worst drought he has seen in more than four decades of farming.  Last week while ag producers and ranchers met with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. Ranchers around the state, others met with talk Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring in Belfield, and Wednesday producers gathered for a Golden Valley town hall meeting with Gov. Doug Burgum to discuss the effects the drought is having on agriculture.

Heitkamp, Goerhingand Burgum heard the same message that the summer of 2017 has become the perfect storm. Producers told their elected officials what they already knew, cattle prices are at near record lows and some ranchers are selling off parts, or all, of their herds because there is not enough grass or hay to feed them. Rebuilding a herd takes a long time and a lot of money which some ranchers may choose to just get out of the business.

Wheat fields are shriveling up and how heartbreaking it is for farmers to work that hard only to watch their investment of time and money lost. Many crops are so bad that they can’t even be fed to cattle because of nitrates that remain due to lack of water.

While elected officials pledged to do everything they could to help sadly there is little if anything can be done to help the folks that put food on our tables. Opening Conservation Reserve Program Fields to haying will help some, but haying of CRP will have increased transportation costs. Working with drought monitoring and crop insurance companies can help.

The one thing we at the Dickinson Press knows our state can count on  is North Dakota farmers and ranchers will respond to the historic drought of 2017 as they always do, they’ll tighten their belts, work harder and rely on their pioneer spirit and innovation that has served them so well since the days of homesteading to get through this historic drought.

We urge everyone today when you sit down to break bread this year more than ever to not take for granted the folks who put the food on your table.