Drought Grips the Plains While Fires Strike Out West

Jul 14, 2017  | 3 min  | Ep4247

This week, more than 7 inches of rain fell in parts of Kenosha County, Wisconsin. Others received less and could classify the precipitation as a billion-dollar grain maker.

But for those a few hundred miles away, just a half-inch of moisture for their crops would make them happy.

John Torpy reports. 

Hot, dry weather is plaguing parts of the country, with parched ground in the high plains ravaging wheat production while a wet winter has failed to prevent summer wildfires in the West.

 Areas of moderate to extreme drought expanded across eastern Montana and the Dakota’s this week. More than half of the winter wheat crop in South Dakota is rated poor to very poor.

USDA chief Sonny Perdue recently authorized emergency grazing on grasslands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in Montana and the Dakotas. The order also provides farmers and ranchers within 150 miles of those heat damaged counties to take advantage of the disaster directive.

Federal officials have expanded the reach of the emergency order and, starting on Saturday of this week, will allow CRP contract holders to donate their hay to livestock producers in drought stricken regions of South Dakota.

In the West, nearly 300 square miles of rangeland have become home to 1,500 firefighters battling grass fires. A half-dozen blazes in Northern Nevada and California have been sparked by the recent growth of Cheat Grass, brought on by plentiful winter moisture. California officials said ample snowfall helped end five years of drought and promoted thick spring blooms of vegetation that were dried by the summer heat creating a ready fuel source for unpredictable wildfires. The danger has been coupled with tinder dry forest conditions that have set the stage for the recent devastation.

Bennet Milloy: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, "… so there's a lot of dead and dying slash, which allows the fire to spread rapidly. You see rapid fire growth in a lot of these fires, larger acreage consumption, which makes it very difficult to firefighters to fight."

The National Interagency Fire Center’s four-month outlook shows elevated wildfire danger in the high plains and Southwest. However, with cooler conditions in the forecast fire crews are expected to receive a welcome break.

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy



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