Tour highlights severe drought hitting Colorado

Colorado agricultural leaders, including Lt. Governor Donna Lynne and Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown, recently attended a “Drought Impacts Tour” designed to highlight the challenges Southwest Colorado farmers and ranchers are facing given the continuing drought and recent fires.

The tour by the Colorado Drought Task Force was comprised of representatives from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and Local Affairs and Public Safety. The intent of the tour was to assess conditions. hear directly from those most impacted by the persistent drought and wildfires, and become informed on how the State can help with both response and recovery.

“The Drought Tour offered us the opportunity to see first-hand the impact the exceptionally dry conditions have had on soils and crops. Colorado farmers and ranchers are often faced with challenges outside of their control such as the economy, market prices, and drought. Right now, we are facing all three and if there is something we, as a state, can do to help them through these tough times, it’s important that we look into it,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown.

The tour included discussing public lands grazing sites, as well as private producers and ranchers—ranging from small to large operations. The Isgar Ranch in Hesperus, Colorado, was also part of the tour where the group heard from ranchers about how they are navigating water shortages, crop loss and high costs of feed. The day also included discussions on drought impacts related to fire, flood, tourism, wildlife, economic and public health. The tour wrapped up with a listening session where the public could have their voices heard and directly liaise with decision makers.

Southern Colorado has been experiencing below normal precipitation conditions since last fall. Currently, 13 percent of the state is classified as in exceptional drought, while 27 percent is classified in extreme drought, an additional 21 percent is experiencing severe drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Governor Hickenlooper activated the Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan to facilitate agency response.