Farm Service Agency passes water emergency program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture placed Humboldt County under another secretarial disaster designation Thursday due to the extreme drought conditions in the southern portion of the county.
”Humboldt County has received this new designation due to the extreme portions of Southern Humboldt being designated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as in an extreme drought,” Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf wrote in an email Friday.
The county has already been under a drought designation since Aug. 14, but the Department of Agriculture automatically places counties under the designation when any area in the county reaches “extreme drought” conditions. The new drought designation allows eligible producers to qualify for low-interest emergency loans under the Farm Service Agency until Sept. 23.
The designation came nearly a week after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for certain portions of the state.
National Weather Service Hydrologist Reginald Kennedy said the county has seen similar droughts over the last 38 years, with many people comparing this year's drought to the drought in 1976.
”Basically, it's comparable because the lack of rainfall is very similar,” Kennedy said. “They're most likely caused by the same thing: a blocking ridge in the eastern Pacific blocks all the storm fronts.
Similar droughts occurred from 1987 to 1992 and most recently from 2007 to 2009, according to Kennedy.
As for the upcoming week, Kennedy that the county may see some “very light rains” starting on Jan. 30.
With dry conditions continuing since late 2012, Dolf said that local ranchers and producers have been going through a quite a tough period.
”I'm hearing a lot from producers with water issues,” Dolf said. “Feed is also still a concern. The grass is not growing with the lack of rain.”
Second District Humboldt County Supervisor Estelle Fennell said the agricultural community and other landowners are “definitely affected by this issue.”
”Local landowners and water managers need to take the situation very seriously,” Fennell said. “They have to be preparing for a worst case scenario.”
Though Humboldt County currently has a sufficient supply of water from Ruth Lake, and does not fall under the effect of Brown's declaration, Fennell said that people should look at Southern Humboldt as an indicator of what may come.
”If we do extend the governors declaration to Humboldt County, there will be some conservation put into place, and I think people should be thinking along those lines now,” Fennell said.
Also on Thursday, the Farm Service Agency County Committee approved offering the Emergency Conservation Program to Humboldt County. Eligible farmers participating in this cost share program can receive emergency water for existing irrigation systems for both produce and livestock during periods of severe drought, according to Dolf.
In response to Brown's drought declaration, the University of California Cooperative Extension is holding a drought workshop across six counties on Jan. 29 to inform ranchers on how to prepare for a potentially dry year.
The “Mitigating Drought: Optimizing Pasture and Supplemental Feed and Managing Risk” workshop will be held in Browns Valley, but ranchers can attend seven satellite locations where they will remotely connect with the Browns Valley location.
The closest satellite location to Humboldt is located in Mendocino County at the UC Research and Extension Center at 4070 University Road in Hopland. The program will last from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and requires attendees to pay a $10 registration fee.
For more information on the UC Research Extension drought program in Hopland, please contact John Harper at 707-463-4495 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on the Emergency Conservation Program can be obtained by calling the Farm Service Agency at 707-442-6058.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Will_S_Houston.