Drought wheat and economy
Idaho is no stranger to dry conditions. In fact, the average annual precipitation for much of the state’s most populous and productive lands is less than 12 inches. This year has been especially dry and hot, with hydrologists recording average rainfall at just under 4.4 inches, putting more pressure on an already limited resource. Even areas of the state – primarily up north – that commonly receive significantly more rainfall than southern portions of the state are experiencing exceptionally dry conditions.
Currently, 88% of Idaho’s land area, encompassing nearly all 44 counties, is experiencing D2 (severe) or higher drought conditions. Fifty-eight percent of the state is concurrently classified as D3 (extreme) or D4 (exceptional) drought. Record high temperatures, rising consecutive days without rainfall and a record number of days with triple-digit heat have been commonplace throughout the 2021 growing season.
The agricultural industry is one of the most important economic drivers in Idaho, generating over $8 billion in receipts from a diverse set of crop and livestock sources. Of these sources, the largest include dairy and milk production, cattle and calves, specialty crops including potatoes and sugar beets, and forage/feed crops including alfalfa and silage corn. Idaho currently ranks first in the nation in potato production with over 26% of U.S. potato production by value and ranks third in milk production with over 7% of U.S. production by value. Furthermore, over 20% of domestic production by value of trout (39.2%), mustard seed (20.3%), peppermint oil (36%), sugar beets (25%) and barley (36%) is from Idaho.