Dry conditions and persistent wind in southeastern Idaho have farmers on edge again this year, and county extension agents are wondering whatever happened to the so-called normal years.
"We've traded real estate four times in the last three days," said Steve Peebles, Fremont County agent. "As far as planting, on the west side of the county in the sandy areas, they're drilling small grains. Is it ahead of schedule? I don't know. What's normal anymore?"Farmers were in the field last week planting spring wheat and barley, starting about the same time of year as last season. They're working under much the same conditions low moisture and high winds that dry out the soil.
"I'm not real excited about the amount of moisture we've got up here," Peebles said. "They may have to be irrigating already or get a timely rain, or the spring crops aren't going to look good. We're not going to have crop failure, but they still won't be in prime condition either."
What moisture farmers in the Upper Snake River Valley did receive has been of little help, he said. Unable to seep into the frozen ground, much of the water ran off the lands, eroding the soil.
In western Fremont County near Hamer, a few farmers have started running their sprinkler systems, and some water has been turned into the canals, in an attempt to bring up the sub moisture in the Egin Bench area, Peebles said.
Range land also is dry, and sheep producers who had hoped to turn their bands out onto grass in the next two weeks may be disappointed, he added.
"We're not in what I would say good shape," he said.
Bonneville County farmers may fare better than their northern neighbors. Greg Van Doren, county agent, said he believes moisture is higher than a year ago, and farmers in the valley won't have to irrigate to get their crops up.
"It doesn't look bad," he said. "The last rainstorm filled up a couple inches on the surface that wind and warm weather dried out. The next storm could help everyone out."