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Drought Is the U.S. West’s Next Big Climate Disaster

March 20, 2021, 9:00 AM

Normally at this time of year, Katy Kemp’s 80 head of cattle would be grazing on her family’s ranch in Staples, Texas. Instead, the herd is living off dwindling hay stores as drought dries up grassland and chokes off crops. Parts of Texas are so starved for water that ranchers are trucking feed 1,000 miles from Montana, driving up prices there and leaving hay producers completely sold out.

For Kemp, extreme weather has dealt a double blow, with February’s record snow storm killing off newly born calves even as aridity threatens to curtail feed supplies into next year. “Normal winter forage ...