Drought Affecting Farmers Across Nevada

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CHURCHILL COUNTY, NV - The water shortage we're experiencing is so bad that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared most of Nevada a disaster area.

For these farmers water woes are part of doing business. In the last two years they only received 70-80% of the water they needed, but this year is shaping up to be far worse. If nothing changes they may get less than 30% of the water they need.

Dry dirt is all that fills the fields at Lattin Farms outside Fallon.

"We were not able to put our fall crops in so it is already affecting us," said Rick Lattin, owner of Lattin Farms. He had planned to grow rye over the winter, but when the time came to plant, the water supply had dried up.

"For the spring grain and things, we begin watering in April," said Lattin.

When April comes around, Fallon farmers may not be able to water, because just like in the fall, there may not be any water.

"Our amount of acres that we farm is going to be drastically lower and I am hoping I just have got enough water to keep the crops that are already in the ground alive right now," said Colby Fray of Churchill Vineyards.

Fray says less water quite simply translates to less income.

"Our fixed costs don't go down; we still have land payments and tractor payments and everything else but the amount of income is the same as the amount of water we get," said Fray.

That's exactly why the USDA has declared Nevada a disaster zone. The designation makes it easier for farmers to get loans.

"This fast track can let our farmers and ranchers come in the door very quickly and start making an application," said Clint Koble with the Farm Services Agency of the USDA.

Those loans supplement a farmer's income. They help them pay bills and stay afloat, but they don't bring in water.

"That's what we would really like better than anything else is to see some great big storms and fill up the reservoirs," said Lattin.

"I think we have enough water for one irrigation so unless things turn around... it's looking pretty bleak," said Fray.

Nine Nevada counties including Churchill, Lyon, Washoe and a few others were declared primary natural disaster areas. All counties touching those counties also qualify for disaster assistance. That means the entire state of Nevada and a few counties in other states are included in this designation and are eligible for disaster relief.