Wheat prospects run dry; conservation lands save the hay

Montana State Roundup

Published September 1, 2001  | September 2001 issue

Small amounts of rain in June were not enough to temper Montana's drought conditions, and wheat farmers continued to fare poorly. A report from the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service indicates that in the north-central region lag behind average growth. As a result, farmers are struggling to feed livestock, and some have been forced to cull herds or switch supplemental feed. Hi-Line area farmers also note the drop in precipitation to levels as low as 35 percent of normal rainfall.

In response, federal officials have opened Conservation Reserve Program lands in several counties for emergency grazing and haying. Normally, farmers sign a 10-year agreement to refrain from using the land, in exchange for payment from the government. With the severity of crop damage, the CRP lands comprise the only grass available for feeding livestock in certain areas, but that grass is itself in poor condition.

Kelly Brooks