Photo by Bobby Magill/The Coloradoan
BUCKEYE - Brown stalks of corn sliced off a few inches above the ground stretch across a field at Ackerman Farms north of Fort Collins, where Eldon Ackerman's family has farmed since 1928.
For Ackerman, it's decision time.
He planted silage corn in the field last year. But as the drought has continued, Ackerman has decided to let the field sit fallow - unplanted amid a drought that is ravaging Northern Colorado agriculture unlike anything farmers have seen in decades.
Another decision: "I've had to lay off three employees because we just don't have the water," Ackerman said. "The city of Fort Collins let us know in November they weren't going to rent water to us for ag use."
The water Ackerman Farms was entitled to was sold off years ago, and recently Ackerman has had to rely on Fort Collins' excess water to keep his fields wet.
With Colorado's mountain snowpack still starved of water, Fort Collins isn't sending its excess water to farmers this year.
"I'm going to be 70 percent short of water," he said. "I'm going to have to make some drastic decisions. It's going to be a disaster, really."
Ackerman's decision: Let 70 percent of his land sit there, cropless.
The final word about how much water many farmers will be able to draw from the region's reservoirs comes in April, but region agricultural producers are bracing for bad news as they make decisions about what and how much to plant because there isn't as much water in the reservoirs as last year.
"Let me tell you, we haven't made those decisions yet, but it's looking like we will be fallowing some land," said Richard Seaworth, who farms near Wellington. "Right now, it looks pretty bleak for us."
The Colorado Department of Agriculture has no estimate for how many acres across the state are expected to remain fallow over the coming growing season, said Ron Carleton, deputy Colorado agriculture commissioner.
The short-term impact might not be devastating statewide, but if the drought wears on much longer, fallowed land may become unproductive because it'll simply be too dry to farm, he said.
Read the entire story on TheColoradoan.com.
(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)