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Rancher relief fund accepting applications; drought now nearly nonexistent in North Dakota

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calf in creek.jpg (copy)

Turner Harris goes to the rescue of a calf that fell in a creek during a mid-April blizzard, near Killdeer.

A relief fund set up for North Dakota ranchers in the wake of a string of severe April snowstorms during the heart of calving season is now accepting aid applications and nominations.

A three-day blizzard in mid-April dropped 2-3 feet of snow over a wide area, and an Easter Sunday storm that followed added several inches more, along with heavy rain in many other areas. A late-month blizzard dumped another 1 to 1 ½ feet of snow in the west and also brought freezing rain to the region.

The counties of Ward, Mountrail, Golden Valley, Billings and Stark had estimated losses of more than 10% of their 2021 cattle inventory. Most other western counties had estimated losses of up to 5% of their cattle inventory, according to a North Dakota State University study.

Ranchers also suffered widespread damage to buildings and fences. And they'd been dealing with the effects of devastating drought for more than a year.

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association and its Foundation launched the Hope After Haley Disaster Relief Fund in late April with $40,000 in funding and invited donations. The fund's total has since nearly tripled. All of the money will go to ranchers in need.

"Our goal is to help our producers recoup and reclaim hope after a very challenging year,” said McVille rancher Dan Rorvig, the Stockmen's Foundation president.

Ranchers can download application and nomination forms at http://www.ndstockmen.org/foundation/hopeafterhaley/. Nomination forms can be used to submit the names and information of producers who could use assistance but not apply for themselves.

Applications and nominations can be sent to the Hope After Haley Disaster Relief Fund, c/o North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and Foundation, 407 S. 2nd St., Bismarck, ND 58504. The deadline is Aug. 1.

“Cattle-ranching families give their all to care for their livestock every day, and we want to do all we can to care for them in their time of need as well,” said New Rockford rancher Jeff Schafer, the Stockmen's Association president.

For more information about the relief fund, go to the website or call 701-223-2522.

Drought update

Drought has become nearly nonexistent in North Dakota, thanks to the wet spring highlighted by the April storms.

Only 7% of the state -- a strip along the western border -- is considered abnormally dry this week, and there are no areas in moderate, severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, released Thursday. A year ago all of the state was in some form of drought, with more than two-thirds of it in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories.

The improvement is due to the ample precipitation in recent months. For example, Bismarck was in extreme drought at this time last year. But the city so far this year has received nearly 2 ½ times more precipitation than it did over the same period in 2021, according to National Weather Service data.

The most recent crop report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service shows that the soggy spring continues to impact farmers, with the planting of all major crops still lagging behind the average pace.

Crop report

But farmers are making strides. About three-fourths of the state's staple spring wheat crop is seeded, up from about half planted last week.

And soil moisture is plentiful. The crop report rates topsoil moisture supplies statewide as 95% adequate or surplus, and subsoil moisture as 92% in those categories. A year ago, those percentages were 16% and 20%, respectively.

North Dakota pasture and range conditions also have improved dramatically, with 63% being rated good to excellent. Stockwater supplies are 92% in those categories. Last year at this time, the percentages were 8% and 26%, respectively.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is a partnership of the National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Weekend forecast

The weekend forecast calls for warm temperatures but chances of showers and thunderstorms.

"Highs into the mid-80s will be likely for areas of western and central North Dakota Saturday and Sunday," the weather service said. "Greatest chances for showers and thunderstorms will be Sunday night and Monday, where strong or severe thunderstorms are possible."

The forecast for Bismarck-Mandan calls for highs in the mid-80s on Saturday and Sunday, with a low chance of rain and storms until late Sunday.

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