I was born in california, and most of my experience with farming has been on the west coast, and I hadn't really noticed it before now, but I've basically assumed that most farms were irrigated. In eastern washington and various parts or oregon and california, irrigated desert land is the primary farming land, and while drought does affect the amount of water available, it makes the crops that they produce much less susceptible. I'm not going to talk about senior water rights or junior rights or the whole topic of water rights in this post, my point is that on this trip I noticed quite a bit of land that was not irrigated, and it surprised me because I'd basically assumed that all farmland was.
Eastern washington and pretty much anywhere that dryland farming was practiced is doing just fine. The small grain crops looked good. Here's some pictures.
|Eastern Washington grain field, half harvested|
|Montana grain field|
|combine harvesting grain in South Dakota|
Drought or no, anyone who planted small grains this year seems to be doing pretty darned well. In eastern Washington and Wyoming and the western edge of Wyoming, the forage crops looked good too. Lots of bailing going on.
|hay bales, eastern Washington|
|Baling the freeway grass|
No, it's not that. Those thousands of farmers are haying the freeway shoulders because where they'd normally get a second or third cutting of hay, they've gotten NOTHING. The first cutting was stunted, and the drought basically made the grass go dormant, so there's thousands of farmers who are VERY worried about what they will feed their cows. The freeway shoulders provide a source of forage grass, and there are thousands of bales of hay being made there.
I also saw farmers haying the fencelines and corners of their fields, and basically working very hard to get every bit of forage they could.