July 07, 2009

Bingaman & Udall Press for Drought Declaration for 7 New Mexico Counties

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today urged U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to quickly approve New Mexico's request for a natural disaster declaration for seven counties due to severe drought and high winds.

In a letter to Vilsack the Senators said that since last October farmers and ranchers in Otero, Lincoln, De Baca, Roosevelt, Lea, Eddy and Chaves counties have continued to suffer losses due to dry weather. A disaster declaration would help provide access to federal disaster assistance.

"Producers in these Southeast New Mexico counties have suffered significant physical and production losses to agriculture due to high temperatures, high winds, and prolonged lack of precipitation. Hay, pasture, and forage crops have been most acutely affected. According to last week's Agriculture Statistical Service reports, 70 percent of range and pasture lands in the state are rated poor or very poor.

"In light of ongoing losses and the possible long-term impacts of the drought, we urge you to take prompt action to the state's request that the counties of Otero, Lincoln, De Baca, Roosevelt, Lea, Eddy and Chaves be declared primary disaster areas," the letter states.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitoring shows all of Southeastern New Mexico under moderate or severe drought conditions. In addition, 100 percent of the state's dry winter wheat crop and 80 percent of dry sorghum are rated poor or very poor. Through the first six months of this year, the City of Roswell in Chaves County has received only 0.72 inches of rain, 85 percent below normal. Also, as a result of the drought, extreme fire danger exists across most of the state. Recent rains have been isolated and insufficient to relieve the ongoing dry conditions that are forecasted to continue into the summer months.