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By DAVID ROWLETT
This summer, Kentucky has been hit hard by a severe drought, which will have a serious impact on crop production across the state.
Carroll County is now included in the Level 1 drought declaration as of last week.
It is estimated that corn is nearing a 50-60 percent loss in our area, while soybeans and pastureland are estimated at a 30-40 percent loss.
But it’s not just our state. According to the National Climatic Data Center, this is the largest area of drought since the 1950s, with 55 percent of the continental United States suffering at least a moderate short-term drought in June. As a result, authorities have already declared more than 1,000 counties in 26 states as natural disaster areas. This is nearly two-thirds of the land in the lower 48 states.
These condtions are taking a major toll, not only on farmers and ranchers, but, eventually, on families around the world who will be forced to pay more to put food on the table.
Amidst these challenging times, we can feel assured about one thing: Despite the fact that our nation has not seen a drought of these proportions since the 1930s and 1950s, we are not expected to enter into a modern-day “Dust Bowl” situation.
There is a reason for this, and it’s something that all of us in the conservation community can be proud of: Careful, long-term nationwide conservation and production practices that started mainly in response to the Dust Bowl of the ’30s. The implementation of these practices has resulted in better protection of our precious soil and water resource base – the foundation of our nation’s food supply.
So, while we can’t control weather conditions, we can help alleviate the effects of extreme weather using strong, locally led conservation planning. Conservation districts play a key role in this process by working with local producers and landowners to implement critical conservation practices on the ground.
The current drought, and other extreme weather events we’ve seen in recent years, is just one more reason why it’s so important that Congress passes the 2012 Farm Bill before it expires in September.
Both the bill that was passed by the full Senate, as well as the bill that is pending floor time in the House, include a strong Conservation Title that streamlines and consolidates programs for increased efficiency and ease of use for producers, while maintaining critical funding for all of the conversation purposes needed to implement conservation where it counts and preserve resources for the future.
The bottom line is, it’s better to invest in long-term conservation measures today than to be forced to pay for the escalated costs of repair in the future.
David Rowlett is chairmain of the Carroll County Conservation District and vice president of the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.