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Dry conditions lead to drought disaster declaration in Richland County

Dry conditions lead to drought disaster declaration in Richland County

Tim Fine

Tim Fine, Richland County Extension agent, talks to producers at past field days.

SIDNEY, Mont. – Richland County Extension agent Tim Fine said the county is dry and was not relieved by recent rain on Apr. 26.

Most of northeastern region is dry, while the far southeastern region received adequate moisture on Apr 26.

“We only got about .06 (of an inch) precipitation around the area on Monday,” Fine said. “We haven’t had any significant moisture since last summer, so we are dry.”

Based on the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map, the north and central regions of eastern Montana are in extreme drought, but producers are busy seeding in spite of the dry conditions.

“We have to get the seed in the soil, but we are hoping it will sprout and grow,” he said. “We are actually planting like gangbusters around here.”

Fine said the irrigation canal was filled near the end of April.

“We will be irrigating earlier than usual. We don’t like to, but so far, there isn’t any other choice,” he added.

Richland County recently sent a letter to the Governor’s Office, requesting a Drought Natural Disaster Declaration, because of drought conditions.

The 2020-21 winter was mild with warm temperatures and little snowfall. By Dec. 23, 2020, Richland County was already in a USDA secretarial drought designation as a contiguous county.

Fine said dugouts were not being refreshed by rain and that water supplies would be low this summer for livestock.

“In drought, it doesn’t hurt to check water for sulfates,” he said.

Meanwhile, the recent 2021 Montana Water and Supply Drought Outlook report stated some 42 percent of the state is classified as “abnormally dry,” with another 18 percent of the state in “severe to extreme drought” conditions. May and June are historically the two wettest months of the year in Montana.

In the report, Gov. Gianforte said, “I am tasking state agency directors to begin reviewing authorities and options to support our agricultural producers as some battle extreme drought conditions.”

The Water Supply and Drought Outlook is an annual report compiled by water planning staff at the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

The Prairie Star Weekly Update

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