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Feb 27, 2013 7:37 PM by David Ortiviz

Water woes give farmers grim summer outlook

Farmers along the Arkansas Valley are facing a dire outlook this summer, following news of a huge water shortage this year. One farmer estimates the industry stands to lose at least $80 million and all of this will have a trickle down affect on you the consumer.

The Colorado Water Protection Association, which manages some of the state's resources, says there's no water to fill their wells.

"The impact of that is drastic," said Shane Milberger, of Milberger Farms. "What it means is that we have no water to pump," he added.

Milberger has been farming in Pueblo County for nearly three decades.

"We farm about 280 acres, mixed produce hay, corn and beans, but this year we're estimating we're going to farm 35% of that," said Milberger.

Many of his neighbors are facing the same scenario.

"I'm in that position, every farmer from here to the border is in that position," said Milberger.

No well water, nothing in storage and it doesn't help that the Bessemer ditch, another water supply, is down about 50%.

"The repercussion of that is that we don't have any water to pump, we don't raise a crop, we don't support our community, we don't buy new trucks," said Milberger.

This all impacts about 100,000 acres of crops in Southern Colorado. According to Milberger and a board member with the association, that's an $80 million hit to their industry.

"The end result is to the consumers, which is we don't have a commodity to sell," said Milberger. Meaning the next time you head to the market there will be less produce and potentially higher prices.

"Supply and demand," said Milberger.

The big uncertainty, of course is Mother Nature.

"If we do get record, record snow falls up there it will not correct 2014, it will take several years of very good snowpacks," said Milberger.

Farmers in Colorado can store winter runoff through March 15, but that may not be enough to help some of them get through this summer.

 

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