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Utah's agriculture department hopes to hook ranchers up with hay

Posted at 10:44 AM, Jul 04, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Faced with the impact of Utah's exceptional drought, some cattle ranchers are looking to sell.

Hay — which is a massive water user — is hard to come by, said state agriculture commissioner Craig Buttars. Some ranchers in the state are looking to sell their cattle herds his fall. That could have an impact on Utah's food supply down the road.

"What we’ll see is a disruption, if we see a lot of cattle going to market this fall and then a year or two down the road we’ll see some shortages," he said in a recent interview.

To help ranchers stay afloat, Utah's Department of Agriculture & Food has set up a website to facilitate connections between farmers still growing hay in the drought and ranchers who need it. A lot of farmers have done one crop of hay and called it good for the year, while others are still trying. The site can also facilitate out-of-state purchases.

The website just launched, but Commissioner Buttars said it was his hope it could at least help some agriculture producers in the drought.

"I have heard there have been some connections online that will help a little bit," he said.

The website can be found here.

The entire state is in a drought, but a large portion of Utah is now in the worst drought categories — extreme and exceptional. Governor Spencer Cox has called for Utahns to conserve and cut back on outdoor watering.

The agriculture industry, which is a big water user, has had to make changes as well. Farmers this year have 75% less water than they did last year, according to Utah's Department of Natural Resources. Some farmers are making changes to optimize water savings, including covering canals, modifying sprinklers and using different planting techniques.