Extreme drought threatens livelihood of northeast Montana farmer - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Extreme drought threatens livelihood of northeast Montana farmers, effects could be felt across state

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For some of us, rain is an inconvenience, but for northeast Montana farmers like Kim Murray, precipitation is essential for maintaining his way of life.

"We're in the business of hoping and praying for rain," Murray said.

The 62-year-old Froid man said he first began farming in 1976, so he knows the year-to-year gamble well,

"Farming is like Texas Hold'em, there's a lot of risk, but I go all in every year," Murray said.

Murray said 1988 was a particularly rough farming year because his crops saw only 3 inches or so of rain that season, but even that experience pales in comparison to the drought now threatening the livelihood or Murray and other producers in his area.

"This is the driest year on record since 1911, the worst I've experienced," Murray said.

Jill Davidson, Roosevelt County's FSA Executive Director, works to provide resources to Murray and other farmers based upon the U.S. drought monitoring system.

"Currently we have hit D3, which means extreme drought, so that has triggered a lot of different programs, like livestock disaster programs" Davidson said. "Right now we have emergency grazing in this county and surrounding counties and emergency haying hopefully in the near future."

With their hands full of today, Davidson and Murray hope for a better and wetter tomorrow. Murray said some nearby farmers have already called it quits on this year's crops, but not this lifelong farmer. Murray said crop insurance won't make up for the losses, but he's not giving up the gamble.

"I've invested too much to let go now," Murray said, looking to the sky with hope.

He adds that the effects of this drought will trickle down, with consequences such as increased prices for commodities grown in the region and other rate changes in Montana's largest industry: agriculture.

"Mother nature can be a cruel mother at times," Murray said.

Hear from Kim Murray and Jill Davidson on KULR-8 News and stay with your weather authority for the latest conditions in your area.

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