News release: Drought Assessment Committee - Long Version

Tim Baker, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: August 16, 2018
Headline: Drought Assessment Committee - Long Version

On July 18, Governor Mike Parson asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to activate the Drought Assessment Committee. This committee consists of state and federal partner agencies, as well as the University of Missouri. Governor Parson also issued an Executive Order at that time declaring a drought alert for 47 Missouri counties.

The committee has met twice, on July 26th and August 8th. I will mention some of the highlights of these meetings in this week’s column. If you want more details, I have a link to the committee’s web page on my drought resources web page:

The first meeting also established two subcommittees: The Water Supply Impact Team and the Agriculture Impact Team.  Both of these committees reported progress at the second meeting of the Drought Assessment Committee.

The organizations comprising the committee give reports at each meeting on the efforts they are taking to mitigate the effects of the drought on Missouri residents. Before I go further, let me mention that these responses are based on the Drought Monitor. For example, when an area goes from one drought stage to a higher level, a practice (such as haying CRP ground for livestock) may begin to be allowed.

This is where your input is requested. The Drought Monitor is put together each week by the National Drought Mitigation Center. They take into account many factors when creating the maps, and assigning drought stages. The more information they have, the better. Your written comments and especially photos are needed. I have been making comments and taking photos for some time now, and I would encourage you to do the same. These help them justify the stages of drought that they assign. This also helps the agencies that I will describe decide on the responses that they will offer, and those comments and photos are especially helpful when disaster declarations are made. There is a link on my web page where you can make your comments and send photos.

At both meetings, we heard updates from the National Weather Service and from Dr. Pat Guinan, Missouri State Climatologist. Dr. Rob Kallenbach of MU Extension also gave an update on how the drought is affecting agricultural producers, and the activities that MU Extension is doing to help farmers deal with the drought.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that they have released acreages in counties that fall under the D2, and D3 but, not those acreage enrolled in CP-25. The FSA mentioned that they have money to offset costs of hauling water, but only hauling costs, not equipment. They also have funding for feeding honeybees.

The FSA also mentioned that producers in affected areas may be eligible to apply for emergency loans. Existing borrowers may also be eligible for set-asides, which allow for delayed payments.

The Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) has modified their rules for people who request cost share funds for grazing systems to attend the grazing school later, to allow them to get their grazing systems started immediately, which can include wells and tanks.

The SWCD is also moving conservation practices that help with drought mitigation to the top of the priority list. For ponds, they are considering funding for clean out measures, to increase holding capacity in the future.

The SWCD has also raised the cap on Cover Crop Assistance programs. They are also considering allowing haying and/or grazing of cover crops established through SWCD’s.

The SWCD also mentioned that as counties are moved into the D2 drought stage, they are automatically moving those counties into special programs and exclusions. This is another good reason to report drought impacts, as mentioned above. If we do get rains, and that county falls back into a D1 stage or lower, the county is still eligible for the programs, since they have been impacted by drought. These programs and exclusions will end on December 1st, when the Governor’s Executive Order expires.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) financial assistance program made emergency financial assistance available to communities of less than 10,000 population that fall in D2 & D3 drought areas. The DNR also mentioned that some state parks will allow water to be pumped from lakes for livestock. Check with your local state park to see if they are participating.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development has Community Development Block Grant funding available for the NON-AG business side of rural communities, including Energy Loans, Infrastructure Financial Assistance, Emergency Community Water Assistance, and their regular assistance program with priority given to communities in the D2,D3 areas designated in the governors executive order.

The Missouri Department of Conservation announced that water for livestock can be pumped from some of their lakes and limited haying may be allowed as well, but check with the managers of your local conservation areas to find out where this is allowed, and where it is not.

The Missouri Department of Transportation mentioned that they have streamlined the permit process for hay movement.

The Water Supply Impact Team has reported that there are three major water systems that have been impacted by the drought the most: Hamilton, Cameron, and the North Central Missouri Regional Water Planning Commission. I will be giving an update on the situations in Hamilton and Cameron in a future column.

The question came up in the second meeting about Federal drought designations. This is something that the Secretary of Agriculture can do. As far as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), they are not set up to cover drought as a disaster.  FEMA goes for one time events (earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, etc.). This is a Presidential Declaration. Since a drought does not fit into this category, they can’t do anything.  In 2012, it was a declaration by the Secretary of Agriculture that declared our drought as a disaster.

Of course, those of us with University of Missouri Extension are still very involved with helping farmers with drought concerns. We have been holding several drought meetings, and our lab in Columbia is testing for livestock water quality and livestock feed testing (nitrates, etc.). And many of us can give qualitative (not quantitative) tests for nitrates here in our local offices.

Before I close, let me state that the above examples show how the organizations I have described are showing an outstanding effort for timely responses to the drought, to assist Missourians.

University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all