Rains come too late to rescue ranchland

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— Rains have finally reappeared in Routt County but they're mostly too little, too late for parched ranchers and farmers.

"It's good for filling livestock ponds, but it isn't going to help the forage," said Valeen Jacobs of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency. "The grass is already dried up and any moisture at this point is not going to bring it back."

An official measurement for the Steamboat area after rains Tuesday and Wednesday came in at .70 of an inch. Of that, .60 fell after 5 a.m. Wednesday, the largest rainfall of the summer.

Since the rain has come too late for farmers and ranchers, Jacobs will formally ask the state on Friday to put Routt County in line for disaster relief, but she's not sure how long it will take.

"Moffat County, Rio Blanco and Garfield are still waiting and they submitted theirs (disaster applications) way back," Jacobs said.

"We need all the help we can get up here," said rancher Illena Updike, a Craig rancher who was forced to send her yearlings to the feedlot much earlier than usual.

Updike has written to the governor, both U.S. senators from Colorado and her congressman.

"We haven't got the government to turn loose any disaster relief or CRP land," Updike said. CRP stands for Conservation Reserve Program. It's land that is set aside by the government. It can be used during drought disasters.

"We would have used it," Updike said bitterly. "It sure made me sad to see those cows towed out of here, because they were young cows."

The USDA's Jacobs said she would have liked Mrs. Updike to use nearby CRP government land, but her hands were tied.

"We'd like to help them, but we can't come up with the statistics to make the government happy," Jacobs said. The government requires four months of 40 percent below normal precipitation. We haven't quite reached that level, Jacobs said.

"I'm hopeful enough counties have submitted for this (disaster relief) that they'd give us a statewide designation," she added.


To reach Frances Hohl call 871-4208 or e-mail fhohl@amigo.net

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