|Oregon County farmer David Crews may have helped Missouri farmers obtain federal help as drought losses mount. He was among farmers who reported the state of their dry land||to the Federal Drought Monitoring System.|
On July 17, 97 counties in Missouri were designated by the USDA as primary disaster areas, due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Counties which now qualify for low interest emergency loans include Oregon, Howell and Shannon counties.
Farmers will have eight months from the declaration date to apply for loans to help cover their losses. Extent of losses and repayment ability will be taken in consideration by the USDA when granting the loans. The Farm Service Agency has other programs available to help farmers recover from this season's circumstances. The Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance, and Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance can all be applied for through the USDA and FSA.
Crews, a Myrtle farmer, is experiencing his ponds going dry, and completely brown hillsides. "People are having to feed hay, and a lot of folks don't have any hay because there was a low quantity this year. They have to bring it in or sell cattle." Crews is a member of the Oregon County Extension Council and is concerned about the affects the drought will have on farmers 55 or older, or the young farmer looking to start out. "The average age of farmers is 55 plus and, if they sell all their cattle, they have to decide if they want to build back up again. It is hard for a young farmer too because why would they want to start a farm business right now?"
Crews said that he has talked to older generations about whether there have droughts this bad in their lifetimes. "One senior citizen said, in 1952 or 1953, they went out in the woods and cut small saplings down to bring to the cows so they would have something green to eat." Crews also talked about the destruction army worms caused to his farm and neighboring farms at the beginning of the summer. "We are hanging by a thread. If it wasn't the army worms, it is the drought," said Crews.
To help get through the drought, Crews has invested in protein tubs to feed his cattle supplement. However, grain prices are so high it is harder to purchase the protein tubs.
Crews retired from Dairy Queen, but says farming is a full time job. He has over 100 cows, and is in a partnership with family on his farm. Crews said, "I know one thing, its easier to sell hamburgers than to grow hamburgers."
Missy Underwood, secretary of the Oregon County Extension Council is worried not only about the grass and hay situation, but the water supply too. "Ponds are going down every week. Ponds that had a lot of water in them, that you never thought would go dry, are going to if we don't get some rain," said Underwood, who also operates a farm with husband, Mark, in Thayer. "The ponds are stagnant and muddy. I'd be really surprised if we didn't start seeing some sick cows, from the deterioration of the ponds from the murky water filled with mud and feces, and no rain to flush that out. It has become a big problem," said Underwood.
Underwood compared the current drought conditions to what Texas experienced last summer. "A lot of those farmers from around here that were hauling hay down to Texas last year, are in the same situation. Farmers are trucking hay in from Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee and other states. The local truck drivers are bringing in hay to the local farmers," said Underwood. Cattle are being sold because farmers can't afford to feed them, with grain and corn prices on the rise. Underwood said, "It's a domino effect. By the time you run out of pasture, you start feeding grain and hay until you are out. If we don't get any rain for us to have a fall crop of hay or pasture, there are a lot of us little farmers who will end up going out. That is the sad thing about it."
According to USDA's state executive director for FSA, Edward Hamill, counties classified in the extreme drought category may be eligible for cost-share assistance for livestock water through the FSA's Emergency Conservation Program. In a USDA news release Hamill said, "ECP allows qualified producers to receive financial assistance to livestock producers to do what's necessary to get livestock a water source during this critical time." Hamill also said, "It is unknown if funding will be immediately available, but producers who are interested can begin making their cost-share requests, and they will be notified as funds become available. It is important for producers to talk to their local FSA office prior to digging wells or running water lines." There is an approval process prior to implementing the ECP program. The program's participants can receive up to 75 percent of financial assistance of the cost to implement emergency practices and 50 percent for permanent practices.
The Oregon County Extension Office works hard to share information that will help the farmers with the problems they are currently facing. Farmers are encouraged to apply for the emergency relief programs that they are now becoming eligible to help them recoup from the drought they are experiencing.