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Drought conditons improve across the Western United States

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Agriculture is one of the most impacted industries during a drought. However, as of July, states west of Kansas have seen improved drought conditions compared to 2021-22. 

Drought conditions affect many aspects of the agricultural industry, reducing industry income and increasing food prices across the nation.

Along with economic impact, drought can contribute to insect outbreaks, increased wildfires, altered soil nutrients and water cycling, all of which can impact agriculture production and the livelihoods of many producers and communities. 

However, with a cool and wet spring, producers started the growing season slow, but many were thankful for the moisture, as nearly half of the West was emerging from drought conditions this spring. 

Western U.S. drought summary

The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) reported in April approximately 12 percent of alfalfa hay acreage in the Western U.S. was experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions, and 20 percent was reported to be in severe condition.

Drought conditions peaked in August 2021 when the NDMC reported 52 percent of alfalfa hay acreage was affected by severe or worse drought conditions. 

Severe drought during the summer of 2021 impacted the broader agricultural sector. It led to diminished crops, lower livestock outputs and reduced profitability, particularly if a drought management plan was not utilized. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) reports Western drought conditions intensified during the summer of 2021, then gradually subsided between October and December 2021. It intensified again during the first half of 2022, before starting to subside again.

According to July 11 NDMC data, only three percent of land in Western states was classified as experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, with an additional eight percent classified as severe, which was down from June, when 18 percent of land in the Western states were classified as in extreme or exceptional drought.

Excessive rains impacted producers

Recent rains have caused local flooding and impacted U.S. agriculture. In Wyoming, it has challenged hay production. Hay has been ready most of June, but producers are having a hard time harvesting it because of wet fields.

Corn in the Western U.S. has been hit the hardest with recent moisture. It is well behind schedule and could yield a lower harvest due to the late start and what the rest of the season could bring.

Areas of excessive rain could also see an increase in an infestation of insects and weeds, mainly from producers unable to get out and spray.

Local outlook

Wyoming is above a 30-year average rainfall as of June. The 30-year average for the region is 1.04 inches of rain, and according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), compared to last year, the region was at 0.69 inches of rain. 

Excessive rainfall has resulted in minor flooding across Wyoming and local reservoirs are no longer collecting rainwater – anything that goes in comes out. 

Wyoming is transitioning from a La Niña pattern to an El Niño pattern, and the month of August is predicted to be at or above average levels of rainfall, which will linger into this fall, according in NOAA.

Drought conditions across much of the Western states have improved over the year, but have not been alleviated. However, as of May, only 17.13 percent of the region is in drought, according to USDM.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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