Chances for as "Miracle March" in terms of snowpack and rainfall in Nevada are dismal as ranchers and farmers face another year of dramatic drought conditions there, reports Clint Koble, state Farm Services Agency director.
"The window is closing, and by April 1 our chances will be significantly reduced" for meaningful new moisture in the state, he adds.
The USDA has designated three Nevada counties – Douglas, Esmeralda and White Pine – as primary disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by recent drought. Carson City also received a declaration.
That's in addition to other Nevada counties designated earlier, including Elko, Eureka, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Storey and Washoe.
Many of these were "re-declarations" from last year's devastating drought, he explains. Counties must have sustained a Drought Monitor impact of eight consecutive weeks of dry conditions to quality for the USDA designations, which they have done already in 2013.
"Our drought has not finished affecting our ranchers and farmers," says Koble. "They saw alfalfa cuttings reduced last year, and experienced cutbacks in allotments for federal land grazing. More expensive hay needed to be purchased by beef and dairy operations. In addition, we experienced wildfires which took even more of our rangeland forage."
This year, alfalfa cuttings are expected to be cut in half to two rather than the normal four most Nevada producers can achieve, he notes.
He also anticipates decisions by water boards to reduce allocations to partial levels unless March produces moisture. However, the outlook for March is for dry conditions following a January-February precipitation level of 15% of normal in the months when the most moisture usually occurs in the state.
"We have a lot of uncertainty in Nevada as we watch the March weather. We have that small window of hope.
"Back-to-back disasters will take a high toll in Nevada."