Amid a Spate of Nuclear Plant Closings, State Officials Mull Economic, Environmental Impacts

Nuclear power has long been a mainstay of the Northeast’s energy mix, but a wave of planned retirements has fueled a debate about the fate of aging reactors, and their value to the region’s economy as states work to achieve a variety of energy and climate goals.

In New York and Connecticut, independent analyses have shown that if nuclear plants were to close prematurely, much of the replacement power would come from the burning of fossil fuels, because it would be impossible to ramp up enough wind and solar generation to offset the electricity, at least in the near-term. That would lead to an increase in emissions of carbon and other pollutants, making it challenging to meet states’ climate objectives.

The studies advise that discussions around the future role of nuclear power consider a full accounting of the avoided costs of carbon-free generation compared with fossil fuels – to consumers, the environment and public health.

New York’s Policy

Last year, New York regulators assessed those costs before they approved subsidies to help the James A. FitzPatrick, R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants, located upstate. The plants were considering closing because of stagnant energy demand, and fierce competition with rock-bottom natural gas prices in interstate energy markets. Audrey Zibelman, chairwoman of the New York Public Service Commission, told The New York Times last August that the social and economic benefits of New York’s program — including reduction of carbon emissions, lower prices for electricity and jobs in the power-generation industry — would be much greater than the cost to ratepayers, which state officials estimate will total less than $2 a month.

The reactors provide more than 3,300 megawatts of power combined, some 15% of the state’s electricity output. They also supply 61% of the state’s carbon-free generation, and if they shut down, their power would be primarily replaced with natural-gas generation, according to an analysis from The Brattle Group.

Zibelman said the resulting rise in emissions would detract from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal of cutting carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050. The economic toll would be high, too: consumers would be expected to pay $15 billion more in electricity prices over the next ten years, and the costs to the environment and human health from increased emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen-oxides and particulates would total an estimated $736 million.

The New York policy and a similar one that would help two struggling plants in Illinois is opposed by electric generators, who made two filings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) arguing the subsidies distort and undermine wholesale power markets.

Elsewhere in the Northeast, the Vermont Yankee plant retired in 2014, and two more reactors are scheduled to close in 2019, nearly a decade or more before their scheduled license expirations: Entergy Corporation’s Pilgrim plant in eastern Massachusetts, and Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant in eastern New Jersey.

Legislative Efforts in Connecticut: Assessing the Avoided Costs of Carbon-Free Power

In Connecticut, which gets 60% of its power from the 2,111-megawatt Millstone Nuclear Power Station, state lawmakers are debating a proactive strategy to ensure the plant stays in operation in the coming years.

Although Millstone’s owner, Dominion Energy, has not announced plans to close, lawmakers are considering a measure that would enable the plant to compete in a state renewable energy procurement program, as a way to lock in long-term power prices for a portion of its output. Proponents stress the bill’s intent is to enhance affordability for ratepayers, and guarantee a continued supply of zero-emission power to help the state meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Millstone provides 98% of Connecticut’s carbon-free electricity.

Instead of offering subsidies to support nuclear output as New York and Illinois have done, the bill’s sponsors have made it clear that their approach is market based, and is intended to encourage the growth of renewables, too.

The legislation, which passed the joint Energy and Technology Committee last week, would enable the plant to secure long-term contracts for nearly half of its output, avoiding the volatility of daily wholesale power markets. Millstone had been insulating itself from the highs and lows of the spot market by selling energy through a series of futures contracts that run for three years. But the daily market is so volatile that the futures market has faltered, the Connecticut Mirror reported last year. Company officials have said the bill will lead to lower electricity prices for consumers.

The proposal has led to a heated debate in Connecticut, with opposition coming from petroleum industry, consumer advocates, and environmental groups worried that allowing nuclear power to compete in a market reserved for renewables will undercut prices for wind, solar and other emerging energy sources, just as natural gas prices have undercut nuclear power.

But the version that was voted out of the Energy and Technology Committee included language specifically intended to prevent cheaper nuclear power from jeopardizing the state’s growing clean-energy industry. The bill would enable Millstone to sell 950 megawatts of power – a little less than half its total output — through a state-run bid process, but limits its contract to five years. That compares with the 20-year contracts permitted for renewable generation. The legislation specifies that Millstone’s proposal must be in the “best interest of ratepayers.”

The bill also calls for an escalation of clean-energy development. It would extend, for at least one more year, the state’s popular zero-emissions (ZREC) and low-emissions (LREC) programs, which offer incentives for the deployment of distributed generation through a competitive reverse auction. In addition, it ramps up the state’s clean-energy mandate, requiring that by 2040, the state obtain 40% of its power from renewables, which is double the 2020 goal. Lawmakers are still negotiating to add some additional renewables “encouragers” as well, said Rep. Lonnie Reed, House chair of the Energy and Technology Committee.

Their thinking is that encouraging Millstone to keep running, at least in the near-term, would avoid an increase in emissions from fossil fuel generation while new capacity comes online from solar installations, wind turbines, fuel cells and other sources. Reed said that if Millstone were to shut down, there is a real danger that duel-fuel natural gas and oil plants would be built to replace the reactor’s massive output in order to meet Connecticut’s and New England’s electricity capacity needs. Those plants can be constructed much faster than the equivalent capacity from renewable generation, for a variety of reasons, but they emit carbon and other pollutants.

“Gas plants are ISO New England’s back-up plan, since air quality is not their mandate,” said Reed, referring to the nonprofit entity that oversees the region’s wholesale electricity markets. “Reliability and capacity are.”

Studies show that if Millstone were to close in the near future, consumers would pay more.

According to a report last year from the Analysis Group, a private economics consulting firm, if Millstone remains open until its operating license runs out in 2030, consumers throughout New England will reap $6.2 billion in net benefits. That includes an average $500 in annual savings for residential electricity customers in Connecticut over the next thirteen years, and $1.5 billion in avoided costs to the region’s wholesale electric capacity markets.

Conversely, if Millstone were to close prematurely, average consumer electricity prices would be 21% higher by 2030. Replacing the plant’s power over the short-term would require a mix of existing and new natural gas generation, both from in-state generators and in the region. That would stress the local natural gas markets, which supply heat and industrial fuels in addition to electricity, and lift costs.

Emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants would rise, too. The carbon-dioxide pollution avoided through Millstone’s operations is roughly equivalent to taking nearly 470,000 passenger cars from the road each year. Early retirement of the plant would boost greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.2 million metric tons annually, some 33%, making it challenging for the state to meet its climate targets. Nitrogen-oxide pollution would increase 38%, thus contributing to worsening air quality.

While the research did not quantify the economic impacts from higher emissions, a number of studies have shown that avoided pollution leads to improved health and economic outcomes for society, because fewer air-pollution-related illnesses means less money spent on medical treatments and lower absenteeism among American workers.

The report’s authors note that their analysis was based on conservative assumptions. They assumed that Connecticut and the other New England states will be able to fully meet their current energy and climate goals, in terms of adding increasing supplies of renewable energy. That includes contracting for hydroelectric imports from Canada from the Northern Pass electric transmission project by June 2020, though the project has yet to receive state and federal approvals. Additional supplies of renewables would make the economy more energy efficient, and thereby mitigate natural gas price increases, the report explains.

“But if natural gas prices spike higher than expected, if there’s slower than hoped-for progress in other things you’re doing in your transition, then the value to Connecticut customers is larger” if Millstone remains in operation, said Sue Tierney, senior advisor at the Analysis Group, during a televised hearing on January 24 in Hartford.

Those who favor policies to keep the region’s nuclear plants up and running observe that concerns about rising emissions in New England aren’t hypothetical. In 2015, the year after the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant closed, the region saw emissions rise for the first time in five years, The Boston Globe reported.

“I wasn’t a particular fan of nuclear plants, but I feel they are so important for affordability of a decarbonization strategy that I think it’s important to tell this economic story: That it’s good for consumers, that it’s good for avoiding global warming to think about keeping these safely operating plants online as much as you can,” said Tierney during her testimony. “And to rely on market based principles as a way to get there…to focus on the power of competition.”

A Question of Priorities

Many of those engaging in the policy debate over the future of the region’s nuclear fleet emphasize that it is a question of priorities, and choosing from an imperfect set of options. There are safety issues associated with nuclear power, and costs surrounding the storage of nuclear waste, which is being held in pools and dry casks on the site of the nation’s 99 commercial reactors, given the lack of a national long-term repository for spent fuel.    

Some environmentalists insist that it is possible to address climate change without nuclear power, by promoting an energy mix based on wind, solar, hydroelectricity and storage. They point to officials’ aggressive push to accelerate clean-energy development in a number of states.

In Massachusetts, where the 680-megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is set to shut down in two years’ time, officials are hoping to dramatically increase imports of Canadian hydroelectric power, and take advantage of the nascent offshore wind industry here. Last year, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation requiring utilities to procure 1,600 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind in a little over ten years, enough energy to power half a million homes. The law also calls on the state to competitively solicit long-term contracts of up to 20 years to procure 1,200 megawatts of hydropower or other renewable resources, and authorizes the state to secure an energy-storage procurement goal.

More than half a dozen transmission lines have been proposed to bring lower-cost Canadian hydropower into New England and New York state, though so far, only one has obtained all of the required siting permits, a proposed 1,000-megawatt cross-border transmission line known as the Clean Power Link.

In New York, officials’ approval of subsidies for the three upstate nuclear plants contrasts with Gov. Cuomo’s recent announcement of a deal to close the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, located less than 30 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, a decade ahead of schedule. Cuomo has said his administration has identified replacement sources of power for the plant, including offshore wind, hydroelectricity and efficiency.  Cuomo has set a target for the state to get half of its power from renewables by 2030.

Others have argued that given the short window of time to available to address climate change in order to avoid devastating global impacts, nuclear power must play a critical role. “The key time frame for mitigating the climate crisis is the next decade or so,” warns a 2013 study  from James Hansen at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia Earth Institute. The research calculated that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths that would have resulted from fossil-fuel burning, and avoided 64 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.

In Connecticut, Rep. Reed said it should be possible to include nuclear power in a strategy to help renewables thrive.

She noted that two of the largest grid-scale renewables projects built in Connecticut in recent years were financed by Dominion Energy, Millstone’s owner:  a 14.6-megawatt fuel-cell project on a brownfield in Bridgeport, and a 5-megawatt solar array on a farmer’s field in Somers.

“I see the potential to create some more intelligent synergies that allow Dominion to help grow our renewables capacity, while also receiving the economic certainty they are looking for to keep Millstone around and churning out our baseload zero-carbon electricity until our renewables are ready for prime time here in New England, where siting anything is a nightmare,” said Reed.

 “We need a realistic transitional plan,” she added. “This requires thinking outside the usual rigid silos that seem to accompany energy industry planning.”

Canadian lessons for the US about health reform

With Congressional and White House leaders’ decision to drop the American Health Care Act, the future of health reform in the US is unclear. Reflecting on the AHCA “drama”, two Canadian physicians have authored an article with lessons for the US. Unlike the US, health care for everyone is a core Canadian value. In 2004 Canadians across the country voted Tommy Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan and “the father” of their universal health care system, as the Greatest Canadian of All Time. The Canadian system provides better health outcomes for everyone, at far less cost, a lower share of their economy, and lower administrative burden. We could learn a lot.

State-specific impact estimates of American Health Care Act

A new analysis by the Urban Institute finds that per capita caps on federal Medicaid spending under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would reduce federal Medicaid funding to states by $457 billion or 9.8% from 2019 through 2028. If states increase spending to fully offset the loss of federal funds, it would increase states’ Medicaid costs by 16.1%. States in the ERC region will lose a total of $144 billion from 2019 to 2028. New Jersey will lose 20.6%, the most among ERC states as a share of federal funding. The authors project that use of the AHCA’s proposed trend factor will disadvantage children and adult Medicaid categories most. The analysis models the impact of the AHCA as originally proposed. The bill is being negotiated in the House as of this writing. State-specific fact sheets are available here.

Medicaid per capita cap impact on federal funding, 2019 to 2028 (billions $)
ACA (Current law) AHCA spending difference % change
CT 65 58 -7 -10.9%
DE 16 14 -2 -15.0%
ME 23 22 -1 -3.9%
MD 84 70 -14 -16.3%
MA 113 100 -13 -11.1%
NH 17 14 -3 -15.1%
NJ 148 117 -31 -20.6%
NY 436 386 -50 -11.4%
PA 181 162 -18 -10.2%
RI 23 20 -3 -14.8%
VT 14 12 -2 -13.5%
ERC total -144

What are the President’s Funding Priorities for Education?

Looking at the President’s 2018 Budget, we are able to see the Administration’s priorities in education.  Note the newly proposed funding for school choice and charter schools and the elimination or reduction of funding for several other education programs and initiatives.

The President’s 2018 Budget provides $59 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, a $9 billion or 13 percent reduction below the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level.

The President’s 2018 Budget for the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Increases investments in public and private school choice by $1.4 billion compared to the 2017 annualized CR level, ramping up to an annual total of $20 billion, and an estimated $100 billion including matching state and local funds.
  • This additional investment in 2018 includes a $168 million increase for charter schools, $250 million for a new private school choice program, and a $1 billion increase for Title I, dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of student based budgeting and open enrollment that enables federal, state, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.
  • Maintains approximately $13 billion in funding for IDEA programs to support students with special education needs.
  • Eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program.
  • Eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before and after-school programs as well as summer programs, resulting in savings of $1.2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program.
  • Maintains Pell Grant program by level funding the discretionary appropriation while proposing a cancellation of $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding. Note that while Pell Grant funding would not go down, that $3.9 billion would not be available under the President’s Budget.
  • Maintains $492 million in funding for programs that serve high percentages of minority students.
  • Reduces Federal Work-Study significantly.
  • Provides $808 million for the Federal TRIO Programs and $219 million for GEAR UP, funds continuation awards only, pending the completion of an upcoming rigorous evaluation of a portion of the program. The plan reduces funding for these programs by $193 million.
  • Eliminates or reduces over 20 categorical programs including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs.

 

CT, NY outline state impact of House ACA replacement plan

Governors of Connecticut and New York have published estimates of the impact on residents and budgets in their states of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that passed the House Budget Committee today. Connecticut estimates that the AHCA could cost the state $1 billion per year after full implementation in 2020 and would cost seniors in the insurance exchange an extra $4,799/year in premiums. New York estimates the state budget impact at $2.4 billion by SFY 2020-21 and over a million New Yorkers would face “significant loss of health care”. These estimates followed Monday’s release of estimated AHCA impact by the Congressional Budget Office. CBO estimates that the AHCA would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion between 2017 and 2026 but leave 14 million more Americans uninsured next year, rising to 24 million extra uninsured by 2026. CBO expects that private insurance premiums would rise for the next two years but then begin to decrease. Other ERC Governors released statements about the AHCA including Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. HHS Secretary Price and CMS Administrator Verma issued a letter yesterday to Governors affirming the importance of Medicaid’s state-federal partnership and outlining their plans for reform. Initiatives include more efficient program management including waivers and state plan amendments, innovative approaches to increase employment and community engagement, aligning Medicaid with private insurance policies for non-disabled adults, reasonable timelines and processes for Home and Community-Based Services Transformation, and more tools for states to address the opioid epidemic.

Hospitals must now notify “observation” status Medicare patients, implications for state Medicaid programs

Under federal law, hospitals must now notify Medicare patients if they are on “observation status” rather than an admitted patient. According to Kaiser Health News, patients were often not aware they were considered outpatients, as they were in identical hospital beds and receiving the same care as other admitted patients. Many learned that they were on observation status only when they received large hospital bills and/or were not covered by Medicare for subsequent nursing home care. Observation care does not count toward Medicare’s three day admission requirement to cover nursing home care. This issue has implications for state Medicaid programs as they are responsible for Medicare/Medicaid dual eligibles’ hospital bills. The use of observation status in Medicare has grown in recent years. The federal NOTICE Act passed in 2015 requires hospitals to notify observation status patients by 36 hours in the hospital.

Canadians with cystic fibrosis live ten years longer than Americans

A new study finds that life expectancy for Canadians with cystic fibrosis is 50 years compared to 40 years for Americans with the condition. Longevity for people with the progressive genetic disease is increasing in both countries, but far faster in Canada. Seeking a reason for the disparity, researchers considered severity of disease and risk factors without luck. Some possibilities include faster access to lung transplants, adoption of high fat diets that improve outcomes, and differences in the two countries’ health systems. Canadians with cystic fibrosis, who get care in a single system, had mortality rates similar to privately insured Americans with the disease. However Canadians risk of death was 44% lower than Americans with public coverage, Medicaid or Medicare, and uninsured Americans with the disease were at even higher risk.

States vary in Medicaid payments for opioid addiction treatment

While the opioid epidemic impacts all income levels, Medicaid is the largest source of behavioral health care and opioid addiction treatment. However that rate varies considerably by state and are higher in ERC states, according to an analysis by STAT News. Eight ERC states are among the highest twelve in Medicaid’s share of opioid agonist (buprenorphine) payment, but no ERC state is in the top twelve in opioid use. Proposed changes to Medicaid in Congress could reduce Medicaid’s ability to address the epidemic by reducing the number of people covered, and eliminating the requirement to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment.

  RX opioid use per 1,000 population Medicaid share of buprenorphine prescriptions
US 695 24.2%
CT 611 44.3%
DE 797 40.3%
MA 570 49.3%
MD 638 38.6%
ME 705 37.8%
NH 626 17.8%
NJ 538 22.0%
NY 504 37.6%
PA 795 29.2%
RI 663 49.6%
VT 596 68.1%

Meet Representative Carolyn Partridge

 Representative Partridge,  Chair of the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry,is an 18-year member of the Vermont House of Representatives and the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. She is better known to the regular participants of the ERC as one of the two Co-Chairs of the ERC Agriculture and Rural Affairs policy committee, along with Senator Gary Simpson of Delaware. Carolyn has also been a chair of the ERC Annual Meeting Committee, and the Chair of ERC Nominations committee for several years.

Representative Partridge grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and moved to Vermont in 1972 after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Oceanography at NYU. Outside of the Legislature, she is a farmer and seamstress, plus a mother of five and grandmother to one. Carolyn is also a member of her local school board, and past member of her planning commission and several other boards over the years. She is also deacon of her Congregational Church.

We asked the Representative what is the biggest agricultural problem in Vermont today. She replied that it is water quality – in Lake Champlain primarily, but in the Connecticut River as well. She says, “Forty percent of the pollutants going into the big lake are from agriculture run off.” She adds, “The worst pollution in the lake is at the north end, where the most farms are.” Vermont has passed a law that requires that all farms have a nutrient management plan, not just large and medium size farms as in the past. The cost of compliance with nutrient management regulations is anticipated to be approximately $25 million per year to the state, but a large part of this will be borne by the farmers. The Representative tells us that the Governor has committed to no new tax or fee to cover the cost of the cleanup.

Carolyn goes on to say, “Home lawn care and storm water management are also part of the total solution.” Two problems they are experiencing is that people in other parts of the state are not happy about being charged to clean up the lake since they are not contributing to the problem. The cleanup has been driven by a lawsuit against Vermont by the Vermont Office of Conservation Law Foundation.

We asked her what was the biggest non Agriculture problem in the state and she replied, “There are three – the Opioid crisis, funding for education, and balancing the budget.” (Sound familiar to any of the other jurisdictions?)

Carolyn was asked about how the Vermont dairy farms are doing with low milk prices. “We are now down to 800 dairy farms left in the state, and we are worried about losing infrastructure with less than 1000 dairy farms.” Carolyn herself travels one and three quarters hours to pick up parts for her farm equipment. Vermont farmers, like every other northeast state, are disappointed in the failure of MPP. Her committee is looking at ways to bring about farm sustainability.

We asked Rep. Partridge what her best job was. “I love being a legislator, in spite of it being taxing at times, and I love farming, because I don’t need to think while working on the farm.” She does go on to say that, while being a legislator is challenging, she loves the constituent service, even though she cannot make every constituent happy.

When asked what she wanted her legacy to be, Carolyn said, “I am proud of the fact that the ‘Farm to School’ and ‘Farm to Plate’ programs were big successes and have improved the diets of Vermonters.” She is also proud of helping to develop the ‘Working Lands initiative’, which created jobs. And she is very proud of her role in the Vermont law that required labeling of GMOs. Partridge is currently very interested in regenerative agriculture, which emphasizes soil health.

She sums her legacy up as participating in work that results in improving people’s lives.   “I love creative thinking, good processes and working together.”

Carolyn Partridge is just one of the many committed and knowledgeable State Representatives and Senators who are passionate about agriculture and rural affairs that you will meet at the 2017 Annual Conference in Connecticut August 13-18.

 The Extent of the 2016 Drought, and the Prognosis for 2017

(Note: This is the third and last in a series of articles relating to the dairy crisis.   See the CSG-ERC Agriculture and Rural Affairs blog for previous articles)

Last year was a difficult one for agriculture in the northeastern states. While prices for almost all commodities were at lows unseen in decades, the intense drought that hit many of the states proved even more challenging.

Since June of 2016, 169 of the 244 counties from the 11 northeastern states in the CSG-ERC Region were declared designated disaster areas by the USDA. According to the United States Drought Monitor (USDM), 51.2 percent of the Northeast was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought at the end of October, the highest percentage since 2002 in the 17-year USDM record.

For example, Worcester Massachusetts recorded only 23.44″ of rain through August of 2016, 10″ below the average for that period.

As a result of this drought, many farmers in the northeast were impacted financially – reduced product available for sale, need to buy in feed for farm animals due to stunted crops, increase in feed price due to lack of supply.

What Federal Assistance Is Available

The disaster designations trigger the availability of low-interest FSA EM loans to eligible producers in all primary and contiguous counties.

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops to protect against natural disasters that result in lower yields or crop losses

Statewide Efforts

Among the initiatives:

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Senate and House Environment & Agriculture Committee have voted in favor of SB10, a drought relief bill to assist the state’s dairy farmers. The bill will be heard in the full House on March 23, and, if passed, will trigger a $2 million payment to the farmers hit hardest by the drought.

New York: It was anticipated that New York legislators will be putting assistance to the state’s dairy farmers into their budget.

Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont: These states currently have general dairy assistance programs in place. As a further step, Massachusetts launched a new Massachusetts Drought Emergency Loan Fund, allocating $2 million in micro-loans to family farms and other small business affected by the drought conditions.

Future Outlook

The seemingly heavy winter precipitation has replenished some watersheds, but groundwater levels remained near to below normal for a majority of the drought stricken area.

The USDM Release on January 26 indicated, after two months of winter, 41 percent of the Northeast was in a moderate, severe, or extreme drought, with another 20 percent being abnormally dry. January average stream flow ranged from much below normal to much above normal, with many areas near normal. Groundwater levels remained near to below normal for a majority of the drought-stricken areas. Reservoirs continue to increase slowly, but they remain below normal capacity.

According to a NOAA February 16, 2017 the drought forecast is ‘low’ confidence.

With the continuing low dairy price and the absence of an effective federal safety net program, should the drought continue through 2017, we will surely lose more of our already disappearing dairy farms. And our specialty crops and horticultural sectors will be severely tested as well.