Rainfall raises spirits

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks Flooded intersections such as this one at Prince and Seventh Streets during a rain storm early this month were a common sight this summer.

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks
Flooded intersections such as this one at Prince and Seventh Streets during a rain storm early this month were a common sight this summer.

By Thomas Garcia
Staff writer

Stan Furry believes he will be able to harvest a dryland winter wheat crop this spring on his Broadview farm for the first time since 2010.

Even with less rainfall than their counterparts to the south, Furry said farmers in northern Curry County are grateful and optimistic about the moisture they did receive, since it will help the winter wheat crop take hold.

“The important thing is to get a crop into the ground,” Furry said. “In the past we’ve been unable to get crops to take hold and our soil and its nutrients blew away.”

He said rain came too late to drastically impact the dryland grain sorghum in northern Curry County.

Two thirds of the nearly 15 inches of the rain recorded at Cannon Air Force Base this year fell in May, June and July, which helped allowed moisture to penetrate below surface and replenished area reservoirs and lakes. In July, Conchas Lake in Quay County had its highest lake level in more than a decade.
Another 4 inches have fallen in August and September.

“One good summer of rain is not enough to break the drought, but it is a good start,”  Curry County Commissioner Wendell Bostwick of Melrose said.

Bostwick said the rain has definitely had a positive effect on the outlook of those outside and inside agriculture.

“The rain makes them grin,” Bostwick said. “It has everyone happy.”

Roosevelt County extension agent Patrick Kircher said while the rain is a good thing, is not likely to cause a significant increase in planting or cattle production immediately.

“One rain or a short series of rains isn’t going to change anything dramatically,” Kircher said “The rain will give everyone a better outlook on life, but it’s not the beacon of change some might think.”

Kircher said beef cattle ranchers have sold stock during the drought to keep afloat. In Quay County, he said, many ranchers sold their entire herds.

“The way the market is now it would be unwise to rush out and buy 100 head of cattle just because there is grass in the fields to feed them,” Kircher said.

Kendall Buzard, chair of the Roosevelt County Commission, said the mood of the entire county is better because of the rainfall, and that optimism is trickling down from the farmers and ranchers to the businessmen and residents in the towns. He said many farmers have crops in the ground for the first time in several years.

“The harvest and sale of those crops and the planting of winter crops has farmers in a much better mood,” Buzard said. “All of those in the agricultural field are in better spirits.”

Buzard said the benefits to the farmers spread to the community when farmers buy seed, fuel and commodities from local merchants. He said the sale of the crops will also increase county gross receipts tax revenues.

Quay County farmers who receive irrigation water from the Arch Hurley Conservancy District will also be harvesting their first irrigated crops of corn, hay grazer feed, sunflowers, milo and alfalfa since 2010.

“The rains over the spring have provided the moisture needed to start crops and has fed 75,000 acre feet of inflow to Conchas Lake,” said Franklin McCasland, district manager. “This has allowed Arch Hurley to provide its members with 15 inches of irrigation water in 2014. This is our largest allocation of water to our members since 2001.”

McCasland said the rain has made the district’s farmers and livestock growers hopeful for 2014. He said cattle growers have grass for grazing and will have enough milo and hay-grazer after feeding their own livestock to supply dairies and feedlots, earning additional profits.

“The storms produced hail that destroyed nearly the entire cotton crop but farmers were able to plant sunflowers in their place,” McCasland said.

McCasland said that some members of the district raise cattle as well as crops, and while the moisture is welcome, these farmers are not likely to increase their herd size immediately.

“With the market there is just too much uncertainty,” McCasland said. “Even in commodities such as crops there has been a drastic change. When our members planted corn it was selling at $6 a bushel. Now it is at $3 a bushel.”

McCasland estimates the immediate economic impact of increased rainfall in Quay County between $10 and $13 million with the harvested crops.

Along with crop income, he said, “there is the purchase of seed, the need for gasoline and diesel fuel to plant and harvest, and when it comes to the harvest, labor that will also be needed,” McCasland said.

McCasland said within the Arch Hurley district, 18,000 of 40,000 acres — nearly half — have been planted with crops that will be harvested this fall.

Precipitation (in inches) recorded at Cannon Air Force Base
Historical year average: 19.13

2013: 17.21
2012: 5:54
2011: 10.35
2010: 18.74
2009: 16.98
2008: 13.98
2007: 16.33
2006: 15.75
2005: 13.33
2004: 20.97
Source: accuweather.com