MISSOURI farmers suffering from a drought will have a chance to bale hay and pump water from some state-owned sites through new relief programs announced by Gov. Mike Parson.
"We can't fix the rain, that is a little above all of our pay grades to make that happen," Parson said when announcing the relief effort Monday. Instead, he offered what help the state could provide.
Farmers will have access to water at 28 conservation areas and five state parks in Northern and mid-Missouri, where the drought is hitting the hardest. The state also opened a lottery that will allow 16 farmers to harvest hay on nearly 900 acres in state parks.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows nearly all of Missouri is experiencing drought. Several counties in the northwestern part of the state are shown with "exceptional" drought conditions, the most dire classification assigned by the monitor.
In Northeast Missouri, Scotland County was on the list of primary natural disaster areas because of the drought. Clark and Knox counties are listed among contiguous counties where dry conditions also exist. Producers in those counties can apply for emergency loans to cover losses through the Farm Service Agency.
While the emergency loan program is a normal part of dealing with drought or other natural disasters, the use of state land is something special and may be a result of top officials who know how farmers are hurting.
Parson, who owns cattle, said he fed hay this month. It's the first time he can recall feeding cattle in August.
Chris Chinn, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, has seen how dry conditions have affected pasture, crops and ponds near her home at Clarence.
"We have some farmers who are hauling in hay from other states while other farmers are culling their cattle herds," Chinn said.
Agriculture is the largest industry in Missouri. When farmers hurt, the state economy feels the effects.
It's good to see the state stepping in with assistance, and we look forward to any other ideas that will provide relief.