Earlier this fall, Colorado farmers were feeling great. Some had just harvested their best crops since 1985, building on 2009, which was also a pretty good year on the farm. As Darrell Hanavan, the executive director of Colorado Wheat, tells The Fence Post, “We just had two good years back-to-back, and that was the first time that happened in the last 10 years.” But, overall, drought has made the last decade rough and, with the dry fall and early winter weather along the Front Range and on the eastern plains, it seems harsh times could be returning.
High winds have blown the moisture out of the topsoil, a problem for the state’s winter wheat crop. National Agricultural Statistical Service data indicate that just eight percent of Colorado’s crop is rated as excellent this year, compared with 13 percent at this point last year. Moreover, 13 percent of this year’s crop is considered to be in poor condition, and another 36 percent is considered only fair. “Now, it’s probably the worst we’ve seen in 30 years,” says Jim Cooksey, of Cooksey Farms, southeast of Roggen.
Earlier this month, Governor-elect John Hickenlooper touched on the issue of water, saying the state doesn’t have a sufficient drought plan. Hickenlooper told agricultural interests at a convention that while Colorado needs “serious conservation” efforts, there also needs to be better support for agriculture, according to The Greeley Tribune. As one measure, Hickenlooper says he is “inclined to support” a proposed new reservoir outside Fort Collins—which would take water from the Cache la Poudre River—but he wants to see the results of an environmental study first.