By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

On the Climate Column, we have noted that drought is expected to become more frequent, severe and damaging to farmers as the climate continues to change globally. Farmers with operations of all types and sizes need to be aware of drought. The length and intensity of drought conditions impact an extensive and nuanced range of production decisions, including harvest timing, irrigation timing and quantity, forage management, feed purchased, crop protection applications, and herd management.

To help farmers navigate these decisions, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produce the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Monitor is a map of drought conditions throughout the country as experienced the week prior.

The maps are released every Thursday, or, if Thursday is a federal holiday, on Wednesday. The conditions detailed on the map utilize measurements of weather, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as more subjective observations of drought impacts from over 350 drought observers.

In addition to gaining information needed to inform production decisions, farmers might be interested in watching the Monitor because USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) uses it for drought relief decisions through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Assistance Grant Program, and the Non-Fat Dry Milk Program. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also uses the Monitor to determine the replacement period for livestock sold in response to drought conditions. Farmers trying to anticipate the likelihood of drought relief in their areas may find it useful to check how their farms are covered in the Monitor.

Are you concerned with the potential for drought impacts on your farm? Would the U.S. Drought Monitor help you make informed production decisions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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