Worst drought in half a century threatens state's economy

7:17 PM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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ROGGEN - Jerry Cooksey's family has been growing wheat in Colorado for more than 100 years. While wheat is a dry-land crop, if it gets much drier, Cooksey is concerned this year's crop will be badly damaged.

"Our sub-moisture levels are low. Last year, in this area we had about 50 percent of normal rainfall," Cooksey said.

The drought conditions experienced last year have left the soils extremely dry. When combined with the lack of significant snow fall this winter, it has longtime farmers, like Jerry Cooksey's father, very concerned.

"The drought last year in 2012 was one of the worst that he's seen and comparable to the drought of 2002. But he's talked about the 1950s and how serious the dry conditions were back in those years," Cooksey said.

The next three months will be critical to the winter wheat crop in Colorado. If significant snows don't come, it will have an impact on the wheat crop and our state's economy.

"There are about 2 to 2.3 million acres of wheat planted in Colorado," Cooksey said. "Wheat last year, in 2012 brought in around $600 million to the Colorado economy."

That $600 million does not stop in the pockets of wheat farmers. It trickles through the economy of the state and in one way or another impacts most of us.

While the warm and dry weather Colorado is currently experiencing may be a welcomed break in the middle of winter, those prolonged conditions will threaten agriculture, which is the second largest industry in the state.

"I like to walk out in the warm weather too, but in the big picture, Colorado agriculture and the state needs moisture in a bad way," Cooksey said.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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