SEDALIA — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's office said Thursday that officials have approved more than 4,900 applications from farmers asking for help to improve their irrigation systems to combat this summer's drought.
The state program picks up a larger share of the tab for farmers to drill or deepen their wells or expand irrigation systems. Normally, state soil and water cost-sharing programs cover 75 percent of the cost. The emergency program Nixon announced in July covers 90 percent of the cost with each match capped at $20,000. The governor's office said more than $24 million has been awarded.
Nixon highlighted the effort Thursday following an annual breakfast at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia and previously promoted the program by traveling to various places in the state. He said Thursday that many of those getting help are dairy or other livestock farmers.
"It was nice to go back and see a well there and see cattle drinking from that well and have a farmer look me in the eye and say I'm not going to have to sell my cattle," Nixon said.
Applications for assistance under the program were due last week. Officials said Thursday that about 1,500 applications still need to be processed. Nixon said money for the program has come from the Soil and Water Conservation Commission and state emergency management funds.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that the drought had worsened in Missouri with more than one-third of the state now falling in the most severe drought classification.
The southwestern and southeastern corners of the state were categorized in the exceptional drought range. It was similarly dry from part of Boone County in central Missouri west to the Kansas City-area.