As the West’s drought eases, this area remains in the worst on record — and it’s hitting farmers hard

Central Oregon’s drought conditions remain the worst on record. Learn more here.

By , CNN

Cate Casad started noticing the for-sale signs pop up over the last year on farms around Central Oregon, which has been mired in water shortages amid a yearslong megadrought.

Casad and her husband, Chris, are first-generation farmers and ranchers who started off with just a few acres of land east of Bend, then moved north in 2017 to scale up their farm. Now, the couple manages around 360 acres of farmland in Jefferson County, where they grow organic food and raise cattle, heritage breed hogs and pastured chickens.

Only a year after that move, they started experiencing the impact of the drought and water cuts so severe that they made the tough decision to stop growing potatoes — a valuable crop that took them nine years to build a local market for.

But while Casad is determined to keep farming, neighboring farms have decided to cut their losses and sell land.

“It’s devastating,” Casad told CNN. “Each year since then, we’ve been cutting back more and more and more to the point in which last year was the worst year yet — and this year, we think will be very similar.”

As much-needed winter storms alleviate drought conditions in California and southern parts of Oregon, the deluge of snow and rain in the West largely missed Central Oregon, leaving Crook, Jefferson and Deschutes counties dry. And many of the farmers in this area don’t have priority rights to the water – putting their farms at heightened risk of failure.


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