Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Texas braces for return of drought
Water managers are eyeing their gauges, farmers are watching wheat fields whither, ranchers are recalculating their herd numbers and city dwellers are dragging out their sprinklers again as drought rapidly intensifies across Texas. A new federal survey shows the dreaded "d-word" is worming its way back as rainfall deficits mount and soil moisture, stream flows and water reserves quickly decline. Ninety-four percent of Texas is now abnormally dry, 54 percent is stuck in severe drought and 25 percent is mired in the extreme category, up 10 percent from one week ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday. For now, one year after a record Texas drought caused $7.62 billion in agricultural losses, 6 million acres of winter wheat are the biggest concern. Forty to 45 percent of the crop is rated poor to very poor, a 15-point jump from last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported. "There's not much to eat out there. I remember the drought in the 1950s and I think we are in the same situation," said Francis, whose boot-level view mirrors the pessimistic assessment of Texas state climatologist John Nielsen Gammon. "I say we are in year three of a drought now and the short-range forecast is not promising. There's nothing out there that will distinguish this from the drought of record in the 1950s which lasted six or seven years," Nielsen Gammon said. "It's grim, it looks like Texas is going to have between the second- to fourth-driest October-November period on record," he said. "We're ahead of the drought pace from two years ago." The state is quickly catching up with this year's dire conditions in the High Plains, where 86 percent of the region is mired in severe drought and 27 percent is in exceptional drought, the most severe category. That same unease is dogging ranchers in Texas where 53 percent of pastures are in poor to very poor condition, according to the drought report. After reducing herds by nearly 700,000 head last year, ranchers are taking a wait-and-see attitude before restocking the range, said Eldon White, vice president of the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "A lot of cows still have wheels under them. I don't think a significant portion have moved back to Texas. We don't have the capacity to increase our herd until Mother Nature heals the land," he said. The mammoth Four Sixes Ranch headquartered in Guthrie trucked more than 75 percent of its herd out of state last year and doesn't plan on hauling them back anytime soon, said general manager Joe Leathers...more