The trickle-down effects of drought |

The trickle-down effects of drought

A state economist says dry weather will impact more than just farmers and ranchers

Josh Nichols

Farmers are feeling the affect of the ongoing drought in Colorado, but they’re not going to be the only ones impacted, according to one state expert.

“Research shows that for every job in agriculture lost, the economy will lose two non-agriculture jobs,” said Jeff Tranel, Colorado State Cooperative Extension Agricultural economist, who also serves on Gov. Bill Owens’ Drought Task Force.

“If a farmer does not have revenue, he can’t spend money in local stores,” he said. “The local merchant then has reduced revenue. It just builds on one another.”

And the outlook for agriculture this year is bleak, he said.

While it’s still early, wheat harvested so far is showing about one fourth of its annual yield.

“About 50 percent of planted acres are being harvested,” he said. “And the yields from those acres being harvested are about half of average. You’ve got half the crops and half the yield.”

The cattle industry also is being impacted, he said.

“Many cows have been sold or shipped to locations that have grass,” he said. “There’s not that many beef cattle left in the state because there’s no feed. Whatever hay we can get shipped in is very expensive.”

The overall impact of the drought and wildfires on state tourism won’t be known until the end of summer, but many state parks and monuments are reporting numbers that are well below average since wildfires broke across the state.

“Tourism is going to be down this year,” he said.

The drought impact will likely stretch far beyond just agriculture and tourism, Tranel said.

“Some areas are not allowing any new waters taps, which stymies growth,” he said.

The Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Director Wally Ralston said everyone would be affected by the struggles of those in agriculture.

“I’ve talked to a couple of ranchers and the extremely expensive hay is going to increase their bottom line,” he said. “Everybody’s prices for meat is going to go up. The whole country is going to have to pay more.”

In talking to local hotel owners, Ralston said he did not think Northwest Colorado was feeling the affect of a slow season for tourism.

“I’ve talked to hotel owners and it seems they’ve been having a good summer season. No one expected that,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

Tranel said the government could only do so much to aid with

the drought.

“It’s limited, but the government can make sure proper regulations and policies are in place to help people deal with the drought,” he said.

One area that officials are being forced to look at for the long term is water storage.

“Government needs to look at what’s best for water resources and adjust interpretations of water law,” he said.

While speculations and adjustments can be made in how government is run and how people live, Ralston said Mother Nature is in control.

“We have a very resilient earth and I try to be optimistic,” he said. “But we really desperately need rain. That’s what it comes down to.”

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