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Drought drying up profit for Utah farmers

Central Utah farmers and ranchers hit hard by lack of water

CENTERFIELD, Utah (ABC4Utah) - Drought conditions dried up more than half of this season's revenue for Central Utah farmers, with the growing season ending unexpectedly early. Zach Jensen's family has farmed in Centerfield for more than 120 years, and this year is one to remember. 

"Mid-2000s, we had a pretty good drought, then 2015 was pretty rough, but nothing compares to this, not even close,"  said Zachary Jensen of M & K Farms. 

A practically non-existent snowpack in the Manti La-Sal National forest and no rain meant a major change in planting plans. Typically, Jensen plants 1,600 acres of corn and 1,600 acres of alfalfa, but this year there was not enough water to support the crop. 

"We mostly grow alfalfa and corn, we do a little small grains here and there. This year we had to do more small grains because of the water situation. We only had about 30 acres and everything else is in small grains instead of everything in corn,"  said Jensen.

Lack of water forced some hard choices. M & K Farms does three phases of planting and harvesting from April to September. The small amount of irrigation water available had to all be used on the first crop of the season. 

"We just decided to empty it for the first crop and get the most out of the first crop that we could," said Jensen. 

Jensen ended up abandoning several hay fields and to make matters worse, the lack of water meant more stress and disease for his herd of cattle. Business profits for the farm is down nearly 70 percent, and Jensen says these weather conditions are not just impacting agriculture.

"They quit farming in June on a lot of their crops. Looking at my numbers, last year I was about 700,00 on those types of things this year I am 400,000. It's a huge hit," Kim Pickett, a co-owner of Gunnison Implement, a parts store, told ABC4 Utah. 

Everyone in San Pete County seems to agree, they don't and likely can't survive another year like this one, and Zach Jensen has a message for Mother Nature as we move into the winter season.

"Please lose the attitude, we definitely need some help," Jensen said Wednesday.


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