Signs of drought across Northeast Montana

HELENA, Mont. – Drought conditions in Northeast Montana have developed rapidly since the end of April. Despite two consecutive years of record precipitation in 2015 and 2016, the winter months of 2017 did not bring much moisture; and while precipitation totals for April were average, May has seen only 25 percent of normal precipitation, along with above-normal temperatures. Rainfall is critical at this time of year for dryland producers across the region.

John Grassy, Public Information Officer,  Montana Dept. Natural Resources and Conservation

HELENA, Mont. – Drought conditions in Northeast Montana have developed rapidly since the end of April. Despite two consecutive years of record precipitation in 2015 and 2016, the winter months of 2017 did not bring much moisture; and while precipitation totals for April were average, May has seen only 25 percent of normal precipitation, along with above-normal temperatures. Rainfall is critical at this time of year for dryland producers across the region.

“This one took us by surprise,” said Ada Montague, staff person for the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee (DWSAC) and a water planner with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). “While Wibaux and Fallon counties were on our radar, we did not anticipate such dry conditions would develop so quickly across such a large area.”

While subsoil moisture is holding steady at normal, Montague said topsoil conditions to about eight inches below the surface are below average. Wind and above-normal temperatures have played a major role in depleting surface moisture, she noted.

Montague said DWSAC members have received reports that producers are selling off cattle due to concern over available forage in Dawson, Richland, McCone, Roosevelt, Prairie, Wibaux and Fallon counties. Reports of dry conditions are also coming in from Valley and Sheridan counties. In addition, producers in North Dakota and South Dakota are experiencing dry to very dry conditions.

“We have made reports to the US Drought Monitor of the impacts to ag producers in Northeast Montana,” said Montague. “We continue to monitor conditions, and we’re also working with the Montana Department of Agriculture and the Montana Department of Emergency Services to make sure we are doing all we can to address producer concerns.” Montague said it’s very important that producers contact their local Farm Service Agency office to report any losses.

The next Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee meeting will be held on June 20, 2017, from 9-11 am at DNRC Headquarters in Helena.

For more information visit www.drought.mt.gov, or contact Ada Montague at (406) 444-6628, or by email at amontague@mt.gov.