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Drought Disaster Declaration for NM

PHOTO: Farmers in 14 drought-ravaged New Mexico counties, declared a 'natural disaster area' by the federal government, are eligible for emergency assistance. Photo courtesy New Mexico State University.
PHOTO: Farmers in 14 drought-ravaged New Mexico counties, declared a 'natural disaster area' by the federal government, are eligible for emergency assistance. Photo courtesy New Mexico State University.
January 23, 2014

COLFAX COUNTY, N.M. - Some farmers in drought-ravaged areas of New Mexico are eligible for government assistance after the federal government declared 14 counties natural disaster areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making emergency loans available to farmers in the designated counties, as well as some adjacent counties.

Troy Sauble is a cattle farmer in Colfax County, which is part of the disaster declaration area. He said that already-severe drought conditions appear to be getting worse.

"Our creeks have pretty much stopped running. Springs are, if they're still going, just barely there or completely dried out. Of course, a lot of our ponds haven't caught water in several years," Sauble said.

Farmers in his area rely on streams, water trapped in ponds, and wells, he said. Little rain last fall, and minimal snow this winter, have created a crisis-level water shortage heading into the next growing season, he warned.

Cattle producers may be suffering the most, he said, because grass on thousands of acres of range land is not growing. Sauble has thinned his herd by at least 25 percent and said many smaller operators are out of business because of the drought. Sauble noted that even his billionaire neighbor, Ted Turner, is feeling the effects of the drought on his massive Vermejo Park Ranch, which is well over 500,000 acres (900 square miles) in size.

"The buffalo have tore some of that country up where they've been trying to get them thinned down and numbers knocked back to where they can take care of things," he said.

If does not rain soon, Sauble said he expects farmers in his area and across the state to take advantage of the government's emergency loans.

A link to counties in the natural disaster declaration is available at http://goo.gl.QUDh9e.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM