KANSAS CITY — Gov. Bob Holden on Monday asked the federal government to declare 39 western Missouri, drought-stricken counties disaster areas.
A disaster declaration by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman would allow farmers in the affected areas to gain access to federal drought assistance, such as low-interest loans.
Holden said many farmers are facing crop and livestock losses for the second year in a row because of drought conditions. The northwest part of the state is considered extremely dry, while other parts in the western half of Missouri range from moderately to severely dry.
“We must have some relief,” Holden said in a news release. “If it won’t come in the form of rain, we’ll have to ask for it in disaster aid.”
Holden the following counties be declared disasters: Andrew, Atchison, Barton, Bates, Benton, Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Chariton, Clay, Clinton, Cooper, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Henry, Hickory, Holt, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Linn, Livingston, Mercer, Morgan, Nordaway, Pettis, Platte, Putnam, Ray, St. Clair, Saline, Sullivan, Vernon and Worth.
The request was based on an assessment by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Missouri Farm Services Agency.
Farmers have lost crops and are being forced to haul water for livestock — a chore that can be costly, said Steve McIntosh, environmental manager for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
“They’re getting extremely concerned, especially with livestock water supplies,” McIntosh said.
Hot, dry weather was expected to continue throughout the state through Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported, but rain and cooler conditions are possible later this week.
The Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that row crops and pasture conditions continued to deteriorate throughout most of the state during the past week.
Nearly half of pasture conditions – 46 percent – were rated very poor, 30 percent were rated poor, 16 percent as fair, 7 percent good and just 1 percent excellent. The statistics service said there is concern that the necessity for supplemental hay feeding this early in the year could result in hay shortages in the winter.
The agency also said topsoil moisture supply is rated at just 10 percent adequate.
Even if it were to rainthe corn crop is too advanced to benefit, the agency said. Soybeans are in urgent need of moisture.
Corn condition was rated 29 percent very poor, 29 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 16 percent good and 3 percent excellent. Condition of soybeans was rated as 32 percent very poor, 29 percent poor, 23 percent fair, 13 percent good and 3 percent excellent.
Holden said he was working with state and federal agencies and Missouri’s congressional delegation to get aid for producers and to remove barriers to water access.
“These are dire times for our crop and livestock producers,” Holden said, “and we must do all we can to help them make it through this situation.”
Because of the drought, many communities in northwest Missouri have called for voluntary or mandatory restrictions on water use.
Milan, Mo., has had mandatory water restrictions since July 22. Residents there have not been allowed to water their lawns or gardens, wash automobiles outside or clean outdoor surfaces with water.
“It’s really brown up here,” said City Clerk Lisa Hurt, adding that some people have been saving dishwater or water from bathing for flower and vegetable gardens.
More recently, Davies County Public Water Supply District No. 1 placed some of its users under water-use restrictions as demand increased in the last week because of high temperatures. The district asked residents south of Pattonsburg, including those in Weatherby, Winston and Altamont, to stop filling swimming pools and stop watering lawns and gardens.
McIntosh, of the Department of Natural Resources, said the Grand River, near Gallatin, has dropped to a level expected only once every 50 years. If such hot, dry conditions continue for another week, McIntosh said, the river is expected to drop to a level seen only once every 100 years.