NRCS Accepting Applications for Upper Clark Fork Drought Resiliency Project

From NRCS: Agricultural producers in Montana’s Upper Clark Fork River Watershed area have until May 18, 2018, to apply for financial assistance for conservation practices funded through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

In February 2016, a proposal submitted by the Watershed Restoration Coalition was accepted by NRCS to be funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The program will provide funding for partnership projects between public (Federal and State) and private entities and nongovernmental organizations.

The Upper Clark Fork project makes available a special five-year funding pool that NRCS will use to fund projects in the Upper Clark Fork watershed area. This is the second year funding is being made available and NRCS anticipates funding projects each year for the duration of the project agreement.

The RCPP project sign-up period will focus on projects that will address water conservation, irrigation water management, fish passage and fisheries habitat resource issues.

To apply for financial assistance, visit the NRCS field office located at 1002 Hollenback Road in Deer Lodge. For additional information, contact Glen Green, NRCS District Conservationist, at (406) 415-4040 or 415-4046.

Governor Bullock issues EO to aid winter hay hauling

Due to the effects of Montana’s severe winter conditions, Montana Governor Steve Bullock has waived certain hay transportation requirements. Yesterday, Governor Bullock signed an Executive Order that allows for the movement of vehicles that may exceed size and weight limits when it is necessary for responding to emergency situations brought on by weather or other natural events.

The Order allows baled livestock feed within the state to exceed the statutory limits by 20 percent along with allowing nighttime transportation of said oversized hay loads.

While operating under this Order, commercial vehicle drivers may not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a motor vehicle and are encouraged to meet the lighting requirements for loads over 10 feet in width.

The exemption will last for thirty days unless revoked prior to expiration.

 

 

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame seeks nominations for Class of 2018

The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame (MCHF) is seeking nominations for the 2018 Hall of Fame induction round. Every year, the MCHF honors living and historical figures that have made notable contributions to Montana’s western heritage.

“We invite people from across Montana to identify those in their communities who are most deserving of inclusion in the hall of fame,” said Bill Galt, board president. “Nominations are open and welcome from the public at large.”

2018 marks the eleventh year of honoring inductees. The Board of Trustees will cast votes to select inductees from each of the 12 Trustee Districts based on nominations from the public.

Nominees can be men, women, ranches, stage coach lines, animals, hotels, etc.—anyone or anything that has made a notable contribution to our Montana Western heritage. A full listing of inductees from 2011-2017, the 2018 Nomination Instructions, and more about the Hall of Fame induction process can be found online at http://www.montanacowboyfame.org.

If you would like to make a nomination, you must contact the MCHF at Christy@montanacowboyfame.org or by calling (406) 653-3800 prior to the submission deadline to express your intent to nominate. Nominations must include a cover page, a two-page biography, and a high-quality photograph. All nomination documents must be in electronic format and emailed by May 31, 2018.

The 2018 Class of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame will be announced by press release by September 1, 2018. Winning inductees will be honored at the 2019 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Western Heritage Gathering.

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The mission of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center is to “honor our cowboy way of life, American Indian cultures and collective Montana Western heritage.” We exist to serve as a resource to all who wish to see this way of life passed forward to the next generation. To learn more, visit www.montanacowboyfame.org

MDA Encouraging Support for Ag Literacy Program During Tax Season

The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) is encouraging Montanans to support the Montana Agriculture in the Classroom program this tax season by contributing to the voluntary check-off program when filing this year’s income taxes.

“As the average age of farmers and ranchers continues to rise, it’s more important than ever that we educate the next generation on the importance of agriculture,” said MDA Director Ben Thomas. “Contributing to the check-off allows filers to invest directly in students and teachers throughout Montana.”

Filers can make tax-deductible donations to the program by checking the box for Ag Literacy in Montana Schools, by selecting either line 69c on the long form or 18c on the EZ form. The form indicates $5 and $10 donation amounts, as well as a blank line to write in the filer’s designated donation amount.

The Montana Agriculture in the Classroom program provides schools and communities with opportunities to learn about agriculture in a fun and effective way, and seeks to instill appreciation for local agriculture and food production. The program provides teachers with timely, accurate, and integrated standards-based curriculum on Montana agriculture through “hands on, minds on” activities, while encouraging critical thinking among students about the role of agriculture in tomorrow’s world.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit www.agr.mt.gov.

 

Current Snowpack and Coming Spring Weather Critical to Summer Water Supplies

Snowfall in some locations of Montana has been record-breaking during February, resulting in snowpack totals for March 1st that are well above normal for most river basins, according to snow survey data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Twenty-five SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry) stations and manual measurement locations set new records for February totals, and 21 measurements at other locations were the second highest on record.

“Abundant mountain, valley and plains snowfall this winter have Montana under a blanket of snow at the beginning of March,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana. “While this is great news for long-term water supply, it’s been hard on a lot of families and businesses in the plains.”

Snowpack totals are above normal in all major river basins of the state of Montana for March 1, and some measurement locations are setting records for this date. Fifteen snowpack measurement locations have set a new record for March 1, and 12 are the second highest on record. Most of these records are being set in the headwaters of the Upper Clark Fork, mountains of the Missouri Mainstem around Helena and in the headwaters of the Upper Yellowstone and Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River basins. While not record-setting, most other river basins have seen consistent and above normal moisture this winter due to the favorable La Nina weather patterns this winter. Many snowpack measurement locations have already reached the normal “peak,” or maximum amount of snow water contained in the snowpack, on March 1st. Zukiewicz said only one area seems to be left out of this year, the Centennial range which serves as the headwaters for the Red Rock River in southwestern Montana. It has a snowpack that remains below normal for this date.

“As we approach spring, water users across the state start to plan for the coming growing season, water supply and allocations from spring runoff of the mountain snowpack,” Zukiewicz said. “This year looks to deliver above average flows in the rivers in most locations due to the deep mountain snowpack.”

On March 1, the NRCS Montana Snow Survey began to issue forecasts for the spring and summer runoff with many locations forecasted to be above to well above average. Some forecasted volumes for rivers in south-central Montana for the April 1 through July 31 period are approaching records. “The median forecast for the Clark’s Fork at Belfry, Mont., is above the record for that location,” Zukiewicz said. “There’s going to be a lot of water coming out of the Beartooth Range this spring and summer.”

While spring is always critical to the timing and volume of water supply, Zukiewicz said he will keep a close eye on the week-to-week weather patterns over the next few months. Climatologically, the months of March through May are some of the most significant months with regards to precipitation for river basins east of the Divide, and many basins already have an above-normal snowpack. Any continued snowfall will build on the above normal snowpack and will further increase the amount of water available for runoff.

“At this point, we have pretty close to assured adequate water supply in many areas due to heavy early season snowfall,” Zukiewicz said. “As much as it pains me to say it, a normal month or two would be the best case scenario from here on out.” The NRCS Montana Snow Survey will issue the next snowpack report and updated water supply forecasts for the state on April 1, 2018. “By then we should have a good idea if this pattern is going to break or keep going.”

Individual point forecasts for streams and rivers can be found in the monthly NRCS Water Supply Outlook Report and should be consulted as conditions vary from basin to basin, and even within the basins themselves.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found at the website below after the 5th business day of the month:http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/mt/snow/waterproducts/basin/

Source: NRCS

Montana FSA: Administration appoints new state executive director

The Trump Administration recently appointed Michael Foster as the new State Executive Director (SED) for the USDA Montana Farm Service Agency (FSA). Foster began his new position on Feb. 20, 2018.

Foster was born and raised in Townsend, Montana, and currently resides in Bozeman. From 1991 to 1994, he represented the 32nd District in the Montana House of Representatives. He then served as a state senator representing Montana’s 20th District from 1995 to 1998, where he was majority whip. Foster most recently served as regional director of advocacy for St. Vincent Healthcare.

The Farm Service Agency serves farmers, ranchers and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs. The agency offers farmers a strong safety net through the administration of farm commodity and disaster programs. FSA continues to conserve natural resources and also provides credit to agricultural producers who are unable to receive private, commercial credit, including special emphasis on beginning, underserved and women farmers and ranchers.

Under the direction of Secretary Sonny Perdue, the USDA will always be facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. Secretary Perdue leads the USDA with four guiding principles: to maximize the ability of American agriculture to create jobs, sell food and fiber, and feed and clothe the world; to prioritize customer service for the taxpayers; to ensure that our food supply is safe and secure; and to maintain good stewardship of the natural resources that provide us with our miraculous bounty. And understanding that we live in a global economy where trade is of top importance, Secretary Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.

As SED, Foster will use his leadership experience to oversee FSA programs in a customer-focused manner to ensure a safe, affordable, abundant and nutritious food supply for consumers.

–Montana FSA

Montana Stockgrowers Foundation to host fire and drought seminar

Producers to discuss challenges and options following fire and drought

Montana Stockgrowers Foundation has joined with the Southeast Montana Livestock Association and the MSU Extension Service to provide a premier program to help livestock producers navigate management challenges following a devastating fire and drought season. Experts from around the country will address issues including how to manage the tax ramifications of drought influenced decisions, insurance, and risk management tools to assist in managing future risk. The program will begin at 1:00 pm, November 15 at the Range Riders Museum in Miles City, Montana. This event is free to the public.

For additional information, please contact the MSGA office at 406.442.3420.

 

Speakers:

Amy Iverson is a CPA in the Billings office of Wipfli CPA’s and Consultants. She specializes in working with those involved in agriculture and will present information on what options you have to manage tax issues related to decisions that are commonly made during the financial stress caused by drought conditions.

Brandon Willis is the owner of Rancher’s Insurance, LLC located in Utah. His expertise is helping ranchers manage their production risk through the use of forage, pasture, and rangeland insurance products. Brandon will provide information on how to decide if the available products might fit you particular situation and the mechanics of utilizing the various products.

Dr. Janna Kincheloe is the NDSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist located at the Hettinger Research and Extension Center. She will provide information on production strategies to manage through a drought. These include developing a drought management plan, efficient utilization of forages and alternative feeding options.

Dr. Andy Roberts, USDA-ARS Fort Keogh, Animal Research Scientist, research will be presented by Andy that shows how you can reduce the input cost of your cow herd while maintaining productivity through changes in your heifer development program.

Lance Vermeire, USDA-ARS Fort Keogh, Rangeland Ecologist. Lance has done extensive study on the effects of grazing on rangeland production following fire and drought. He will present strategies that allow for recovery of the range condition in the presence of grazing animals.

 

Drought disaster increased to 31 counties, 6 reservations

From the Great Falls Tribune:

Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order on Friday declaring 31 counties and six Indian Reservations are in drought disaster.

The counties are: Blaine, Big Horn, Carter, Chouteau, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Fallon, Fergus, Garfield, Golden Valley, Hill, Judith Basin, Lake, Lincoln, McCone, Musselshell, Petroleum, Phillips, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sanders, Sheridan, Treasure, Valley, Yellowstone, Wheatland and Wibaux.

Also included are the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, Crow Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation and the Flathead Indian Reservation.

On July 19, Bullock declared a drought disaster for 28 of Montana’s 56 counties and five Indian reservations.

The newest drought disaster declaration continues the temporary suspension of “hours of service” regulations and waives temporary registration, temporary fuel permits and over-dimensional permit requirements for commercial vehicles providing support for the drought, state officials said.

The declaration also compels maximum employee assistance and cooperation with the United States Departments’ of Agriculture and Commerce to secure timely economic assistance.

As of July 10 small nonfarm businesses in 16 Montana counties are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration after Bullock sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting a Secretarial Drought Disaster Designation. Affected counties and reservations are also eligible for the Livestock Forage Program.

Bullock said high temperatures, extreme drought and worsening fire conditions are affecting Montanans in many corners of our state.

“We’re doing everything we can to minimize the economic impact of these hot and dry conditions and help folks get back on their feet using all resources available,” he said.

For more information visit www.drought.mt.gov.

Agriculture Fire & Drought Assistance Hotline

As drought conditions worsen and fires burn throughout the state, the Montana Department of Agriculture has launched the Agriculture Fire and Drought Assistance Hotline. The hotline will serve as a tool to help connect those affected to available resources, programs and donations, as well as to provide information on how others can help. Questions related to hay/feed donations, livestock, fencing, and transportation can be directed to the hotline. The hotline number is 1-844-515-1571 and will be staffed 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

“Montana’s agriculture industry has been disproportionately impacted by disasters this year, both drought and fire,” said MDA Director Ben Thomas. “There’s currently a major need for resources and there’s been an overwhelming swell of support from folks across the state and throughout the country. We saw a need to get information out about resources available and ways to help connect people to those resources.”

Montana Agriculture Fire & Drought Assistance Hotline
1-844-515-1571
Monday-Friday, 8 am–5 pm

The hotline is not an emergency number, if you are in an emergency please call 911.

Visit www.agr.mt.gov/Fire-Drought-Assistance-2017 for more information.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries.  For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit agr.mt.gov.

Drought expansion in Montana

Much of Montana and parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas had no rain this week; some areas have been drier than normal for the last 2 to 3 months; and some drought indicators reflect dryness for the last 12 months. D3-D4 were expanded in northeast Montana, and D3 expanded in northwest South Dakota and was added in southeast South Dakota, where the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was consistently at those dry levels for the last 1 to 9 months. D1-D4 expanded in northwest North Dakota where the SPI was consistently at those dry levels for the last 1-6 months. D0-D2 expanded across much of Nebraska, with collateral expansion of D1-D2 in adjacent South Dakota, D1 in adjacent Iowa, and D0-D1 in southeast Wyoming, and D0 expanded in parts of eastern Kansas and northeast Colorado, due to 30-90 day precipitation deficits and high evapotranspiration caused by excessive heat. Governors provided much-needed response to the dire drought impacts.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order declaring a drought disaster in 28 counties and five Indian reservations in the eastern part of the state. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an emergency proclamation, allowing the state Emergency Management Agency to address unmet drought needs, particularly those related to wildfires. According to July 23rd USDA reports, 92% of the topsoil moisture and 88% of the subsoil moisture were rated short or very short in Montana, 82%/81% of the topsoil/subsoil moisture was short or very short in South Dakota, 71%/66% in Nebraska, 67%/62% in North Dakota, 61%/58% in Wyoming, and 45%/41% in Colorado. More than half of the pasture and rangeland were rated in poor to very poor condition in North Dakota (75%), South Dakota (73%), and Montana (56%). In South Dakota, 37% of the corn crop, 34% of soybeans, 57% of sorghum, and 76% of the spring wheat were in poor to very poor condition. In North Dakota, 23% of the corn crop and 39% of the spring wheat were in poor to very poor condition. In Montana, 55% of the spring wheat was in poor to very poor condition. According to media reports, as of July 25th, the Lodgepole Complex wildfire in Montana was the largest wildfire in the CONUS.

Dryness Categories

D0 … Abnormally Dry … used for areas showing dryness but not yet in drought, or for areas recovering from drought.

Drought Intensity Categories

D1 … Moderate Drought

D2 … Severe Drought

D3 … Extreme Drought

D4 … Exceptional Drought

Drought or Dryness Types

S … Short-Term, typically <6 months (e.g. agricultural, grasslands)

L … Long-Term, typically >6 months (e.g. hydrology, ecology)

Montana Drought Resources

 

 

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor