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Secretary Vilsack Visits West Texas During Severe Drought

story by Quenna Terry

Secretary Vilsack and former Congressman Combest discuss drought conditions with the Harmons.U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently traveled to Lubbock to join former U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest for a trip to Harmon Farms near Idalou, Texas where they met with, Scott, Amanda and their son, Guy Harmon, and neighboring farmer Craig Kitten. Secretary Vilsack and Combest were joined by USDA state directors, including Craig Derickson, Acting State Conservationist for NRCS in Texas.

With over 80 percent of the area in D4 Exceptional Drought category, the Secretary and Combest saw firsthand the on-going challenges the farming operation is facing from the lack of moisture, severe heat, and rapid evaporation. Harmon Farms is diversified with cattle, dryland and irrigated cotton.

In recent years, Texas and other states have been plagued with extreme drought where the landscape continues to suffer from insufficient rainfall that has allowed for severe wind erosion and destructive wildfires. Farmers and ranchers have struggled to adequately manage their crops and livestock operations with below average rainfall.

Harmon Farms has incorporated minimum tillage methods to reduce soil moisture.Both the Harmons and Kitten visited with the Secretary about how they had enlisted the help of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help them improve their irrigation water management systems to conserve water and improve their efficiencies using micro subsurface drip irrigation systems.

Additionally, Amanda Harmon operates the cattle business for Harmon Farms. She showed Secretary Vilsack and Combest a new feed mixer the farm purchased last year as a way to help them keep their cattle fed during the drought.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to produce our own hay and have the availability of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for our cattle,” Amanda said. “ The feed ration we mix to supplement grazing includes milo, wheat, and CRP grass hay and cotton by-products.”

“Secretary Vilsack’s visit meant a lot to Texas producers trying to manage through one of the worst drought conditions on record,” said Craig Derickson, Acting State Conservationist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Vilsack emphasized that the loss of topsoil and lack of incentives producers have to plant cover crops is one of the important challenges they face.”

For more information about NRCS conservation planning and programs visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.

Secretary Vilsack listens to the concerns of cattle producer’s Amanda and Guy Harmon at Harmon FarmsScott, Amanda and their son, Guy Harmon and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at Harmon Farm.