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Western Panhandle Suffering From Severe Drought Conditions

Western Panhandle Suffering From Severe Drought Conditions

Severe drought conditions in the Panhandle
Severe drought conditions in the Panhandle have resulted in the loss of entire crops and significant wind erosion.

Dryland wheat conditions in Cimarron County. This photo was taken 16 miles west of Boise City.

 Despite adequate rains in most of Oklahoma, the far western Panhandle of the state is experiencing severe drought conditions, particularly in Cimarron and Texas Counties.

In Cimarron County, few dryland wheat acres will be harvested this year. By mesonet data, wheat acres in Cimarron Co. have received .81 inches of rainfall since October 2007.  

�The area is historically dependent upon winter snows to assist in filling soil moisture profiles and those were not forthcoming,� states Cherrie Brown, District Conservationist in Boise City. 

According to Brown, little to no acres are available for grazing. The mesonet shows that the area is experiencing a deficit of 8.21". Many producers are reconsidering their number of corn acres to be planted under irrigation this season due to depleted soil moisture, high gas prices and seed costs. 

Much of the rangeland acres in the northern and western areas of the county have received less than .1 of an inch of moisture in over a year. Conditions in those areas are promoting erosion from wind for the first time in years. Virtually little to no grazing acres are left unaffected from forced deferment or herd reduction. The plight of farming and ranching producers in the Panhandle is also critical.

Cimarron County producer Gary Speilman traditionally plants corn under irrigation. However, this year he will not plant corn due to lack of supplemental moisture from snow and rainfall, combined with high fuel, fertilizer and seed costs. 

Charles Tapp, a dryland farmer in the western Oklahoma Panhandles, states that he may consider reduction of farmable acres due to economic stress of potential crop failure.

Even for well-seasoned farmers, this is one of the toughest years in terms of moisture and the economy.

 "We've had some bad years in the panhandle, but we didn't have the high prices along with it,� says Eugene Boyd, an area rancher in his eighties. �Cake for my cattle is running $300 a ton and here it is May, and my grass isn't greening up yet."

By Dee Ann Littlefield, public affairs specialist, Waurika, OK
NRCS May 2008

Last Modified: 05/19/2008

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