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Snow a welcome site for Utah farmers, ranchers

Snow a welcome site for Utah farmers, ranchers

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RANDOLPH, Rich County — Windy, snowy days like Friday make it tough to work outside — not that cattle rancher Clint Cornia minds.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to see a little white finally show up here,” Cornia said.

Woodruff Narrows Reservoir in Rich County has been greatly depleted over the last few years, and parts of Rich County are now rated the driest in the state. Friday’s snow is a welcome sight for them.

“I can remember years it’s been this bad,” Cornia said, “but it’s sustained through two or three years in a row that’s making it tough on us this year.”

The third-generation rancher said it’s been so tough that farmers have more or less resorted to praying for a miracle.

“The (Latter-day Saint) ward has asked us to fast and to try and receive some moisture,” Cornia said. “So yeah, everybody in the valley is pretty concerned.”

And prayer is what it may take if you look at the data so far. While storms forecast in northern Utah through the weekend could bring the snowpack up to 95 percent of the normal average, state hydrologists say it will take a lot more to maintain up until it's needed for irrigation.

Bottom line: There's about a 10 percent chance of escaping more drought conditions later this year.

“Water is the lifeblood of the valley,” Cornia said. Really, it’s a lifeblood to everyone as these farms and ranches put food in local stores.

For Cornia, supporting some 400 head of cattle is a task that becomes increasingly tough without enough water. Over the past two years, he said he’s only had about half the water he normally needs.

“It can be devastating,” Cornia said. “Hay prices are real high right now, and if we have to go out and buy hay to sustain these herds of cows it gets costly and it can be pretty tough on us.”

Cornia said he did get some emergency relief this past year through a federal insurance program. However, what qualified him for that was producing less than half their average hay crop.

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Mike Anderson

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