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Connecting Agriculture: Creating an Accurate Drought Monitor
By: Mike Jaspers, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture - 07/14/2017

Drought conditions have continued to spread across South Dakota over the past few weeks. The most recent drought monitor shows that more than 90 percent of state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and drought. This has brought increased hardship for South Dakota producers. Many livestock producers are reducing their herd size or making plans to do so this fall. Crops are also suffering, particularly South Dakota's wheat crop.

The U.S. Drought Monitor provides a weekly snap shot of what conditions on the ground look like. There have been some frustrations over the past couple of weeks about the accuracy of the drought monitor. As with most of the technological tools producers use, the Drought Monitor is only as good as the data used to build it.

As producers and landowners, we can share data, including pictures of crop fields and pastures, with those creating the weekly Drought Monitor. To submit your information online through the Drought Impact Reporter at the National Drought Mitigation Center, go to http://droughtreporter.unl.edu/map/. Other types of valuable information include: a description of how the drought is affecting you and your livelihood; when you first started noticing the impact; and the location of the impact. After you have submitted your information, you may be contacted for more details. I strongly encourage you to provide any relevant information you may have so that the Drought Monitor can be as reflective as possible of conditions on the ground. To view the U.S. Drought Monitor visit: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.

In recognition of the severity of the dry conditions across South Dakota, as indicated by the Drought Monitor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made announcements regarding the grazing of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). I hope that opening these acres will provide some relief for the livestock producers across the state. To learn more about the opening of CRP acres and possible eligibility, please visit your local Farm Service Agency office. Contact information for all county offices can be found here: https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app'state=sd&agency=fsa.

Watching pastures and cropland deteriorate can make us all feel helpless. While we can't make it rain, you can provide valuable information to make sure the tools used to determine eligibility for assistance are as accurate as possible. I encourage you all to report your experience to the Drought Mitigation Center.

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