AG Watch

Some Valley counties may soon declare drought

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Agriculture officials in Mariposa County say a lack of grass could take a serious financial toll on the county's cattle industry.

They're also worried about the long term impact of a lack of water.

The Mariposa County Ag Commissioner expects to declare a drought by the end of the month.

That would allow some ranchers to get emergency loans to help them deal with the added costs they're now facing.

The grass may be green in Mariposa County, but the color is not the problem. It's the length.

The county's Agricultural Commissioner says at this point it should be 14 to 16 inches, and instead there's only three inches of growth.

That means many ranchers are being forced to pull cattle off the pastures and feed them with pricey hay instead.

Dana Richards has ranches in both Mariposa and Merced Counties and says she's already paying to feed at least a third of her cattle.

"The loss as far as the grass goes is probably a good 80% loss, economically it goes at least half of your profit or so, or depending on the person and how things go," Richards said.

It's also a big concern for Mariposa County's economy because its ag industry is based on cattle ranching. The latest livestock report puts the total value at more than 20 million dollars.

That's why ag officials are now taking steps toward possibly declaring a drought by the end of the month so ranchers would be eligible for emergency loans.

Richards says that would help, but she and other ranchers are also worried there won't be enough water this fall and winter.

"It can scare you. If we come into fall again and we are short with the season and the water, it's going to be pretty scary then," Richards said.

Action News spoke to Merced County's Ag Commissioner, and he also expects to look into possibly declaring a drought in the weeks ahead.

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Tags:
ag report, mariposa county, merced county, ag watch, sara sandrik
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