The dry conditions in Colorado have caught the eye of the federal government, prompting disaster designation for 62 of Colorados 64 counties, including Montezuma and Dolores counties.
According to a press release from the governors office, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack notified Gov. John Hickenlooper via letter Tuesday that the vast majority of the state qualifies for federal disaster relief because of drought conditions across the state.
The Department of Agriculture has reviewed the Loss Assessment Reports and has determined that there were sufficient production losses in 62 counties to warrant a Secretarial disaster designation, the letter from Vilsack said. Therefore, I am designating all Colorado counties, except Delta and San Juan counties, as primary disaster areas due to losses caused by drought, excessive heat, and high winds that occurred from Jan. 1, 2012, and continuing.
A mild winter in Montezuma and Dolores counties, characterized by unseasonably warm temperatures and low snowpack, was compounded by early spring heat and vicious winds that sucked moisture from already parched soils.
As of July 2, Cortez had received 2.49 inches of precipitation in 2012, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. That total is just 44 percent of the average 5.64 inches received by this time of year, well below normal range for the area.
It is very dry and the rain just hasnt come, said Paul White, executive director of the Montezuma County Farm Service Agency.
Crop losses have already been experience by local ag producers, including a 50-70 percent loss in the winter wheat crop and close to a 50 percent loss in the first hay cutting.
Disaster designations are typically based solely on crop loss criteria, according to the press release from the governors office. However, due to the overwhelming evidence of sever drought across the state, the recent disaster designation was sought before each county showed minimum crop loss.
The disaster designation means federal funds will be available to help bridge the gap for local producers between less-than-stellar crop production and incoming bills.
What the designation immediately means is it opens up for emergency assistance for emergency loans, White said. That will cover expenses and/or payments farmers couldnt make because of the drought.
White said after the designation is in effect, local agencies will work to provide more relief for area farmers and ranchers beyond monetary loans and subsidies.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall noted the importance of the designation for agriculture in Colorado.
I am pleased that U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has granted Governor Hickenloopers request to designate eligible counties in Colorado as disaster areas in response to severe drought conditions across our state, Udall said. The losses that face Colorados agriculture producers are mounting and now that this declaration has been made, Colorados farmers and ranchers will have access to additional resources to get them through these tough times.
For more information on emergency loans, contact the Montezuma County Farm Service Agency at 565-9045.