All 17 of Nevada's counties remain under a Drought Emergency Declaration as designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Humboldt County is in D-2 (severe) and D-3 (extreme) drought conditions, while nearly all of Pershing and Churchill counties are in the highest, D-4 (exceptional) drought designation. The western edge of Lander County and a large portion of the southern part of Washoe County are also D-4, while the remaining part of both Lander and Washoe counties is just slightly less serious at D-3.

11.08 percent of the state is designated under the highest drought declaration there is. That compares to 8.24 percent a week ago and 5.37 percent three months ago.

While the Midwest, central Plains, and southern Florida got a measure of drought relief from some recent widespread, locally heavy downpours, drought conditions remained or intensified from California into the central and southern Rocky Mountains.

The two states with the worst drought conditions are Nevada and California. The entire state of California is under drought designation with over 75 percent of the state in either D-3 or D-4 condition.

Portions of Oklahoma and Texas are in D-3 and D-4 drought conditions as are smaller portions of a number of other southwestern states.

The most recent Drought Situation Report released by the Nevada Division of Emergency Management has a list of agencies and assistance programs available to farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are disastrously affected by the drought. Some cost sharing programs through the Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency can help producers do water projects including installing pipelines and deepening wells to try to access the water they need to save a portion of their operations.

The current year's drought would have been disastrous all by itself, but farmers and ranchers are suffering keenly from the effects of this third drought year in a row. That suffering will be passed on to everyone else in food prices, and the effects are likely to last far beyond the current drougt. Some producers have said their operations will not survive this third year's losses, and even for those who do, it will take years to replace fruit trees and herds.

An article by Las Vegas Review Journal writer, Sean Whaley pointed out that many people don't seem to understand the connection between the drought's effect on farmers and ranchers and the food they buy in the grocery store. He quoted Bob Conrad, Nevada Department of Agriculture spokesman, who said that ranching and agriculture are some of the largest industries in the state, contributing $3.3 billion directly to the state economy.

Alfalfa is the state's largest crop, and while it's not sold in grocery stores, it has a very direct effect on the price and availability of the meat that's in the coolers.

Fire fighters from small volunteer departments to Forest Service and BLM firefighting personnel are watching the drought situation warily. The extreme drought conditions in Nevada and California will also not help the groups working in each of those states to show that the sage grouse habitat conservation plans they've developed are sufficient to forestall the need to list the bird as an endangered species.

Contact Joyce Sheen at j.sheen@winnemuccapublishing.net.