ND Drought: How Will It Affect Young Farmers?

ND Drought: How Will It Affect Young Farmers? Click to Enlarge

SOUTH HEART, N.D. - North Dakota farmer Bob Kuylen says he's mowed his lawn once this summer.

Normally it's at least once a week.

Kuylen farms near South Heart in the southwestern part of the state, colored the darkest red on drought maps, marking that the area is in the highest stage of drought.

Nearly the entire state is in some stage of drought, and almost half is in the extreme or exceptional categories, the two highest categories measured.

Kuylen, vice president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, says his top concern is the young farmers who might not be able to weather current conditions.

"If something doesn't happen with some kind of a cash influx to these guys where they can just go in survival mode for a year and give it a try again next year, I think we're going to lose a lot of them and that's concerning to me because agriculture's been tough the last 20 years and we lost a couple generations of farmers," he states.

At the beginning of August, the Farmers Union called for federal disaster payments to assist livestock and crop producers. Last week, Gov. Doug Burgum asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration, saying the state is "the epicenter of drought for the nation."

Kuylen says North Dakota farmers are used to facing adversity and harsh conditions, but the current drought is of a different magnitude.

"It's troubling, but we've survived through a lot of it and we'll probably do this one too, but it's going to be tougher because it's just been a string of things going on that have been putting the stress, the financial stress, on farmers," he states.

Unfortunately, climate models don't predict relief from the drought, especially as the state enters the dry season.

Kuylen just hopes young farmers don't get too discouraged. Otherwise, he says, the future of agriculture will look a lot different than it does now.

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