Community Agriculture Alliance: We all play a role

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Wednesday’s drought workshop for agricultural producers, co-sponsored by the Routt County Extension Service and the Community Agriculture Alliance, was a needed “slap in the face” for ag producers, according to one attendee.

“We knew what the reality was, but we really needed to hear it with everyone else,” the producer said.

The article in Thursday’s Steamboat Today (“Less water means fewer cows”) gave a good recount of the meeting, which was attended by more than 100 folks. But what was the lesson we wanted attendees to leave with?

One takeaway is that producers now know there are folks in our community working on drought management issues, wildfire evacuation plans and information on how to get through this ordeal in an orderly manner. Another is that rules and laws are in place to help us get through this drought with reduced risk. And another is that even if you think you have nothing to offer as a resource in the event of a wildfire, you can provide much-needed help if we know you’re willing and able to do so.

Presenters from the Farm Service Agency, the Routt National Forest, the local Bureau of Land Management field office, Routt County law enforcement and emergency management offices, accounting firm THPK, the Colorado Brand office and Superior Livestock Auction made it clear that while this is one of, if not the worst, droughts seen in the Intermountain West in recent memory, producers and their businesses can survive the worst with proper planning. Having these groups represented in one place allowed folks to see a more complete picture of the drought situation, how to get through it and what role each agency can and will play in drought-management situations.

Because the Forest Service, the BLM and Routt County all have enacted Stage 2 fire restrictions, it was clear to those in the crowd that if you don’t follow the rules regarding outdoor smoking, fireworks, campfires, etc., you will be held liable whether or not you start a wildfire. As one attendee mentioned to the group, “I don’t think it’s the people in this room we need to worry about; we need everyone else to realize the seriousness of this situation.” The group seemed to agree that it is incumbent upon each person in the Yampa Valley to follow the fire regulations without fail, or we’re all destined to reap the consequences.

If you missed the program Wednesday, you are encouraged to visit http://rcextension.colostate.edu not only to see what you missed but to join in the larger community conversation about what resources you can offer in the event of wildfire and the related livestock evacuations that would ensue. Click on “June 27, 2012 Workshop” to see PDF versions of all the information handed out at the workshop, YouTube videos of each presentation and, perhaps most important, to answer the questionnaire on how you can help your friends and neighbors in a wildfire emergency at www.surveymonkey.com/s/D9FZY3D.

The most important takeaway from this workshop and article? We’re all in this together, and the only way we’re going to get through it is by working together.

Todd Hagenbuch is the Routt County Extension Agent. He can be reached at 970-879-0825 or email thagenbuch@co.routt.co.us.

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