In the next half century, scientists are predicting more extreme weather for Wyoming with bigger winter storms and hotter, dryer summers. That’s according to the latest National Climate Assessment out this month. Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers are skeptical about climate change, but some of them have been forced to adjust their methods of production.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to reduce energy consumption on farms in Laramie County.
Jim Pike is the district conservationist for the NRCS. He says many farms in the area have old, inefficient irrigation equipment that uses so much power it can overload the electrical grid.
“In 2012, the rural electric company had to bring portable, truck-mounted generators that were powered by diesel motors to generate additional electricity because they couldn’t keep up with it in their normal infrastructure,” Pike said.
It’s early in the season, but a few prescribed burns have already spread out of control.
Meterologist Chris Jones of the National Weather Service in Riverton says one recent case involved an effort to clear weeds along fence line. Wind spread the fire into a trash pile.
Fire fighters responded and no structures were damaged. But with warmer winds and last year’s drought and subsequent drier soil, Jones expects that more such fires could occur without proper preparation.
The most recent farm bill expired in September and farmers and ranchers are eager to see when Congress will reach a decision on a new bill covering crop insurance, conservation and disaster relief programs.
Passage of the farm bill has proved challenging, as lawmakers battle over cuts to parts of the bill that deal with nutrition programs like the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps.
Some Native American farmers and ranchers in Wyoming could be receiving checks and debt forgiveness in the coming year in the wake of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It’s estimated that Native American farmers and ranchers lost over 770-million-dollars in revenue between 1981 and 1999, because the USDA denied them loans and services based on their race. Many Native Americans also lost their land in the process.