Agriculture Rattled By A Summer Of Severe Drought And International Trade Shake-Ups

October 10, 2018
Photo: Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Field(Courtesy James Jacobs)
The Proctor Produce cantaloupe field shortly after planting.

As Colorado slides into winter and snow, it leaves behind the memory of a bone-dry summer marked by trade negotiations for the state's farmers.

The whims of the weather and international politics were particularly tangled for Centennial State agriculturists this year, and it shows in the numbers. State Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown talked to Colorado Matters about the problems farmers faced in 2018.

The impact of severe drought doesn't go away when it rains. Drought has a long-term effect, and months after dry weather, farms and ranches will still see native pasture grasses die off and orchard trees weaken. If ranchers sell off cows to scrape by, their herd's gene pool will be affected for generations to come. Grains—think corn, wheat, beans and other similar produce—were particularly hard hit, taking a 20 percent decrease since June.

NAFTA renegotiations also complicated Colorado agriculture. The new trade deal, the USMCA, will present unique challenges going forward.