(08/21/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — Everyone in Louisiana already knows rain has been hard to come by this summer.
But exactly how bad and widespread is the drought? Without enough data points, it can be hard to say — and that can prevent local farmers, ranchers and others from qualifying for assistance programs.
That’s where a group of volunteers, many of them youth, led by the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is stepping in to help.
Called the Water Rangers and armed with rain gauges provided by Farm Bureau, the volunteers are logging rainfall — or lack thereof — through a weather-reporting network called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS.
“The CoCoRahs reporting system is one of the four weather data reporting systems that plays a major role in drought detection to qualify for federal funding programs,” said Hannah Devall, animal science and agricultural literacy and awareness specialist with Louisiana 4-H.
Besides 4-H clubs, FFA groups, schools and Master Gardeners have joined the initiative.
“Those volunteers went through the official CoCoRaHS training, and we’re excited to have more than 100 additional weather reporters submitting their observations as of the beginning of July 2023,” said Jessica Lange, the Farm Bureau’s commodity, public policy and promotions boards coordinator.
The idea for the Water Rangers came about last summer, when Louisiana experienced a drought that was milder than this year’s but nevertheless caused problems in agriculture.
“During the summer of 2022, parts of Louisiana were far drier than the Drought Monitor reflected,” Lange said, referring to the U.S. government’s weekly map of drought location and intensity. “This concern was fielded through Louisiana Farm Bureau’s Livestock Advisory Committee, which then began researching the various data collections that are included in the Drought Monitor, and found the number of weather reports throughout the state was woefully small.”
“With the dry weather that we have experienced in the past couple of years, Louisiana producers were lacking the data necessary to aid them in qualifying for monetary relief programs,” Devall added.
At www.cocorahs.org, visitors can see a map displaying data collected by the Water Rangers in Louisiana and their fellow citizen weather reporters across the country.
As Louisiana continues to deal with hot, dry weather, Devall said she is proud to see young people taking part in an important effort.
“We hope that more thorough data collection will aid our farmers and ranchers across the state,” she said.
For information on joining the Water Rangers, contact Devall HDevall@agcenter.lsu.edu.