Ramsey County Extension agent Bill Hodous confirmed that production is likely to be down across the state.

A punishing drought that has lasted through the summer has North Dakota farmers expecting a dropoff in production in 2017.

Ramsey County Extension agent Bill Hodous confirmed that output is likely to be down across the state.

“The crops looked pretty exceptional until we started getting into the dry season,” Hodous said. “We’re going to be a little less than last year’s numbers.”

It’s the first year since 2006 that any part of the state has been in an “exceptional drought,” the highest category of drought. Ramsey County has been abnormally dry throughout the season, though areas south of the county, like parts of Minnewaukan and Sheyenne, have been in a moderate drought.

It was casually estimated at last week’s Forward Devils Lake regular meeting that about 80 percent of the local economy is driven by agriculture, and Hodous said that any respite is a godsend for local farmers. Many have already begun harvesting this season’s crops.

“That last rain was just an absolutely beautiful thing for us,” Hodous said. “Harvest has started, and I know producers who have harvested some crops.”

A recent news release from the NDSU Extension Service provided information that  put the statewide drought in perspective:

“The only counties that are drought-free in the state are Grand Forks and Nelson, and parts of the counties adjacent to them. This area of northeastern North Dakota received near-average rainfall during the last 90 days.

Since the onset of the drought in mid-May, dry locations continued to stay dry. Based on the accumulated rainfall since March 1, Bismarck received only 4.47 inches of rain, making March 1 to July 20, 2017, the fourth driest since record-keeping started in 1875.

Conditions in eastern North Dakota have not been as dire.

Fargo, for example, received 6.09 inches of rain during the same period, making it the 15th driest March 1 through July 20 since record-keeping started for Fargo in 1881.”

State lawmakers and Gov. Doug Burgum have worked to help mitigate the drought’s effects. Burgum issued a drought emergency for 15 counties, chiefly in the western part of the state, on June 22­.