Mobridge escapes drought so far

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The hot, dry weather of 2012 is taking a toll on South Dakota and industries that depend on cooperation from Mother Nature.

According to the Thursday, July 12 report by the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 77 percent of South Dakota is in a moderate drought. The north central and northwestern parts of the state, which are usually some of the driest, are considered abnormally dry. That was before the Monday, July 16 rainfall.

In Mobridge the National Weather Service (NWS) recorded 1.05 inches of precipitation. In July, Mobridge has received 1.95 inches of rain, which is .44 above the normal rainfall for the month. Recorded precipitation in the area is 10.48 inches since January, which is .21 inches below the normal average, according to the NWS website.

From the Montana border to east of Eureka, recent rain amounts varied from half an inch to locally up to four inches near Bison on Monday night and Tuesday morning. Not much rain fell on other parts of the state. In Aberdeen, according to the NWS, .06 inches of rain fell during that time. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, rain fell east of Mobridge and Aberdeen recorded more than an inch had fallen at press time.

Laura Edwards of the Aberdeen office of South Dakota State University Extension Service said crops in the Mobridge area are in better shape than in other areas of the state.

“I haven’t heard any real concerns about the condition of crops coming out of Walworth or Campbell County,” she said. “We have some corn that is tasseling and it is great to have some rain to keep the silks wet (which aids in pollination.)

She said water demand in the crops is especially high when the temperatures are in the 90 and 100-degree range, so any rain is helpful during the hot periods.

The wheat crop is ready and being cut at this time, she said and the soybeans will pod in August, which is the crucial time for rainfall for the crop. Impact on the soybean crop will be reduced if there is precipitation by August.

Edwards is one of two COCRAHS coordinators in the state and requested area producers join the network. She said the precipitation reporting service has few spotters in the north central area. She said anyone with a cylinder type rain gauge can report recent rainfall on the on the website at cocrahs.org.

In last weeks droughtreport, 47 percent of the state was considered in moderate drought. Another 19 percent of the state in large part in western, southwestern and south-central South Dakota is now in severe drought, up from 3 percent last week.

Lack of precipitation is stressing crops and cattle as fields and pastures dry up across the state. In the Mobridge area, heat has been the major problem as cattle and other animals stress in the 100-degree heat.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard Tuesday activated the state Drought Task Force to monitor worsening drought conditions across much of South Dakota.

The task force will have its first meeting on Monday, July 23, in Pierre.

The group will coordinate the exchange of drought information among government agencies and agriculture, fire, and water-supply organizations. The information exchange is the key to monitoring the development and seriousness of the drought.

Officials with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, the state Office of Emergency Management and South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service have been actively tracking drought conditions for several weeks.

In addition, those agencies have worked with local officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency on the agricultural disaster declaration process, including pursuit of options to allow haying and grazing on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

 Agencies and groups represented on the Drought Task Force include the: Governor’s Office, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Safety, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, South Dakota National Guard, state climatologist, federal Farm Service Agency, and South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems.The South Dakota Congressional Delegation have asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to open Conservation Reserve Program acres to emergency haying and grazing due to ongoing and worsening drought conditions. On Tuesday Senator John Thune was notified that the USDA will allow emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP practices on or after August 2 if a county meets the D2 Drought Level on the U.S. Drought Monitor and a request is made to the State Committee by the applicable Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee. Prior to this change, the emergency haying and grazing could only be authorized if a county met the D3 Drought level.Much of the CRP land, which would be available for haying, is in eastern South Dakota and is currently enrolled under wetland and farmable wetland practices. Opening CRP acres to haying in non-eligible counties would help ranchers in other eligible counties access feed for their livestock, where it is in much more limited quantities.Dryness and drought have been intensifying across much of the of the Great Plains area in July. According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) the drought is likely to develop, persist or intensify across the state. Some relief may come from scattered thunderstorms, but for the most part, summers are usually a fairly dry time of year for the central part of the nation.

– Katie Zerr – 


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