Nevada Farmers Face Severe Drought - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Nevada Farmers Face Severe Drought

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Because of our ongoing hot, dry weather, farmers and ranchers in rural Nevada are facing one of the worst water shortages the state has ever seen.

In Pershing County, farmers are only getting about 10% of their annual water.

Farmers, in Lovelock, are making the most of the bleak situation, cutting their hay for the first time this year.

"Usually, we'll get three good ones and we'll get a little fourth sometimes," Lovelock farmer Bob Cooney said. "This year, we're going to be lucky if we get two good ones."

Cooney farms 1,000 acres of hay but he was only able to water about 400 acres.

Normally, farmers are allotted three acre-feet of water per acre. This year, they are getting about 3-tenths of a foot, which many have already used.

"It's pretty hard to believe," Cooney said. "Going into the year, we figured we would have at least a foot of water. There just hasn't been nothing come down the river."

Several Nevada counties are designated as primary natural disaster areas because of the drought.

Farmers in most counties qualify for emergency low-interest loans because of the drought, but most have crop insurance.

"I think it's gotten so bad, historically in the last 20 years, that the farming community, it's put them in that situation where they're going to have to be using and seeking any means they can," Bennie Hodges, Secretary Manager of the Pershing County Water Conservation District said. "We're just grasping for straws down here."

Clint Koble is with the United States Department of Agriculture and says the drought will affect farmers and ranchers for the rest of the summer.

"All the farmers and ranchers are suffering," Koble said. "They're either going to be buying hay, which is at historic high costs. They're going to run out of forage. They're going to run out of water. They're in danger of losing some of their federal grazing allotments."

Water storage along the Humboldt River is almost used up.

The 30-year average for water flow at one point of the river is 188,000 acre feet. This year, it's less than 6,000, leaving irrigation canals with a trickle of water or completely empty.

"Right now, nothing goes through and we're just losing it to ground water," Hodges said.

The drought means there is less crop, meaning farmers aren't hiring workers and they aren't expecting things to get any better.

"Very, very long summer," Cooney said. "Very boring summer, probably, because we can't irrigate again."

Farmers say this alfalfa cutting will probably be the biggest one they get all year, even if they get rain. The next cutting probably won't happen until August.

Written by Paul Nelson
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