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Ag feeling the heat

Fire and agricultural risks are expected to increase in the near future due to a consistently hot summer, according to Roosevelt County fire officials and local farmers.

“It looks like at this point there will be a lower chance of precipitation,” said New Mexico National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Fettig. “The depth of the air has been deep enough and not allowed a lot of precipitation to develop.”

Fettig said temperatures could easily fall between 95 to 100 degrees today and Monday but could still spike up again.

“As we go toward late next weekend, we may be back to 100,” said Fettig.

Fettig said Portales is in the non-drought, non-abnormal area in terms of weather, but this doesn’t change the risks of fires or agriculture in the Portales area.

“We’ve been under a pretty heavy hot pressure system,” said Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols. “It’s definitely been suppressing moisture.”

Nuckols said this summer has been drier than past summers, and that scientists are predicting a shift from El Nino to La Nina patterns in the coming months, “which typically decreases precipitation.”

“The potential is there for an increase,” said Nuckols.

Despite the heat and fire risks increasing, Nuckols said no fires have increased in the area so far.

The current weather conditions have a much more devastating effect on the agriculture industry, according to farmers.

Roosevelt County farmer Matt Rush said weather conditions are especially problematic after two relatively wet years.

“We’re in a dire situation,” said Rush. “Most crops have already been impacted significantly. If we don’t get measurable precipitation in the next year, this year’s summer crops are going to be gone.”

Rush said he will have to get more hay to prepare for winter crops if there are no chances of rain this summer.

Z-7 Farms Owner Rick Ledbetter agrees that unfortunate circumstances are facing farmers.

“Dry land crops are suffering tremendously,” said Ledbetter. “It’s hard for us to keep up.”

Ledbetter said he anticipates more crop failures if there is no rain or moisture, leading to the reliance on insurance money in the coming months.

“It certainly is a challenge with the current climate conditions,” said Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher. “It’s not the easiest time to be in agriculture.”

Kircher said this summer compares with a severe drought farmers had five years ago, adding that farmers will have to dry plant wheat crops for the fall in hopes the rain will help.

“It’s a multiplier effect,” said Kircher. “The folks seeking some income from raising a summer crop won’t get income.”


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