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Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah ask USDA to help livestock industry hit hard by winter weather

This is an image of cows meandering across a snow-covered rangeland. Mountain ranges can be seen in the background and the sky is cloudy.
Courtesy Duane Coombs
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Cattle owned by livestock producer Duane Coombs meander through snow-covered rangelands in Lander County, Nev.

Agriculture departments from several states in the Mountain West are asking the federal government to consider relief programs for livestock producers hit hard by the weather this winter.

In a written letter to the U.S. Department of Agricultures’ Farm Service Agency (FSA) officials from Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah say the cold temperatures and persistent snowfall have made it difficult for producers to truck livestock in and out of grazing areas.

Moreover, the amount of plants available for livestock to eat has also been affected, said J.J. Goicoechea, director at the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

“If you’re a grazing permit this time of the year, a lot of those winter permits were snowed over early,” Goicoechea said. “And then none of that vegetation was showing through, especially as that snow continued to accumulate.”

Goicoechea said this comes at a time when producers already face shrinking supplies of supplemental feed to sustain their livestock.

“The stockpiled hay sources and forage that normally you would be eating this time of the year was short because of the ongoing drought,” said Goicoechea, noting livestock feed has surged in demand and costs.

In their letter to the USDA, Goicoechea and other state agriculture leaders asked the agency for help overcoming grazing and feed challenges. They also requested assistance with snow removal and options for offsetting fuel costs.

“We are asking for any flexibility and innovative ideas from the FSA perspective that could expand eligibility and use of emergency programs to provide relief,” officials wrote. “Assistance with supplemental feed/water and locations to move livestock for grazing/feeding are needed urgently.”

As of Feb. 27, Goicoechea said the FSA has not yet responded to their request.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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