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Drought forces farmers to abandon fields of dry crops

Tom Favero, a Weber County farmer, had to abandon this alfalfa field because of this year's drought. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)



OGDEN — The extreme drought has already forced some Utah farmers to walk away from crops in thirsty fields just to get through a very dry year.

This is by far the worst growing season many farmers said they have ever seen. Giving up on dry crops has cost some farmers a lot of money.

In March, Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to ongoing drought conditions in Utah. The order, which went into effect immediately, allows counties and cities to begin the process of implementing water restriction plans for the irrigation season and encourages all Utah residents to reduce indoor water waste by consuming less and fixing any "irrigation inefficiencies." A little more than 80% of all water consumption in Utah goes toward agriculture, the state reported in 2019.

The order also encourages water suppliers and irrigation companies to "where possible, delay the start of the irrigation season or end irrigation early."

With drastic limits placed on what little water he has, Tom Favero said he and many farmers along this west side of Weber County were forced to watch some crops die. "We've all made serious choices of what fields we can water and what we can't," Favero said.

Farmer Dean Martini pointed at one of his fields. "That corn there, where I can't water, I don't have the water. It makes me sick to see it go to heck like that."

With limits on amount and time, he said there wasn't enough water flowing to make it across his fields. While some of the corn dried up, he had to let a whole field of barley go too. "It hurts buddy. That hurts," Martini said.

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He already put a lot of work into the field and the crop. "Plowing, put fertilizer and everything on and then see this? That hurts bad. It makes a guy sick."

His decision meant less feed for his dairy. Now he has to buy from other farmers who also have a short supply. That will drive up prices. "If we ain't gonna have it, then the cows are going to have to go too," Martini added, stacking one problem on top of another.

Favero only grows feed. He said now he won't have enough to go around. "We're going to be back in production, about 30% of what normal should be and hopefully we're only a lack of 30%. It might be closer to 50%," Favero explained.

While you may see lush, green crops in one field, Favero said you have to consider the crops in other fields that many farmers left to die. Factor in those losses and the money already invested and many farmers will struggle to break even.

"Everything's there. All expenses are there but no income," he said starkly.

It's why Favero and others farmers have pleaded with homeowners to cut back on watering. Favero said water in some of the nearby canals is at levels they usually see in October.

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Mike Anderson

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