Washington drought affects farmers, livestock growers throughout

PROSSER, Wash. – The US Drought Monitor said we haven’t seen such dry conditions in the West or Washington since the late 1800’s, and it’s taking a toll on farmers alike.

Fourth generation farmer Nicole Berg has learned in farming, no two years are ever the same nor are they easy.

“So I can’t even buy a Starbucks with an acre of wheat. This year is one of those years that we just have to chalk up to a drought,” Berg said they would only be able to harvest half of their wheat bushels per acre; their average is 25 bushels per acre.

Berg, who’s also the Vice President of the National Association of Wheat Growers said wheat is supposed to be much taller and when pulled, your hand should fill up with kernels, but not this year.

“Since February we’ve gotten nothing and excessive heat doesn’t make wheat,” Nicole laughed.

Their wheat is just too short to harvest and Nicole said farmers across the region are experiencing something similar. Some were lucky enough to harvest early and make a profit off their crop.

“It’s been quite the struggle this year, even in the irrigated agriculture division down there we’ve been trying to keep up with the heat just keeping the sprinklers running,” Berg’s family farm is based out of Patterson, Washington.

Bruce Clatterbuck with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Franklin County explained just how dry this year has been.

“In my career it’s been one of the worst dry spells I can remember. The pasture grazing ground is pretty bad off; we’re really coming out of a drought that started last year,” Bruce said.

Luckily, they have help available for farmers of all kinds, including the Livestock Disaster Program.

“That basically compensates growers up to a max of five months of pasture loss, gets them direct benefits so they can go out and buy additional feed,” Clatterbuck said it could also help growers rent out land with irrigation if they need to get their animals to fresh pasture.

With much of Washington in a drought, USDA Emergency Loans have opened up.

“Kind of designed with lower interest rates to help folks mitigate whatever it is they’ve been affected by,” he said.

Nicole said they utilize crop insurance to ensure they can continue farming and operations.

They also use hope to get through tough situations like a global pandemic or drought.

“You’re an eternal optimist and you say next year’s gonna be even better,” Nicole said.

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