Drought returned to the West this summer, with a little help from the federal government. Ranchers from Oregon to New Mexico - their herds grown too abundant as a result of a well-intentioned drought-relief program - let grass-starved cows and sheep strip parched range lands bare.

The emergency feed program, run by the Department of Agriculture, is open to all ranchers on private and public lands. For the majority who use it, it provides free corn plus 50 percent of the cost of extra feed needed to keep their livestock alive in years when grass growth is at least 40 percent below normal.These payments might make sense in real drought emergencies, but in fact they bear little relation to the weather.

-Karl Hess and Jerry Holechek

The New York Times