Farmers from Augusta, Berger, Labadie, Lonedell, Marthasville, New Haven, Pacific, Robertsvillle, Union and Washington met with University of Missouri Extension specialists Monday night, Sept. 17, in Union to discuss the impacts of the 2012 drought.
The gathering was to make local farmers aware of area resources that can help them manage the impacts of the drought and put them in touch with agencies capable of supplementing or providing services and materials.
About 40 to 45 people attended the meeting.
National Climatic Data Center reports indicated the last such a severe drought hit the country was in 1956.
Back then, the problem was simply not enough rain. This year’s lack of precipitation was compounded by excessive and unrelenting heat.
Conditions during the summer months — in which temperatures climbed higher with unprecedented speed — actually made this drought a flash drought.
Although, Matt Herring said he’s heard more colorful ways to describe the drought.
Herring is an agronomy specialist. He and agricultural business specialist Ken Bolte represented MU Extension during the program.
Representatives from branches of the U.S. Department of Agriculture discussed emergency conservation and emergency loan programs, as well as soil and water conservation initiatives. A farm bill biologist and agriculture specialists from the MU Extension offices also talked to the group.
Sheria Yancey, executive director of Franklin County USDA Farm Service Agency, said cost-share water relief programs are still available.
Her advice to farmers was to keep good records. If and when disaster or indemnity programs are approved, farmers will need to be prepared to demonstrate the effects of drought. Surplus feed purchases, livestock deaths, water hauling or animal relocation costs and production harvests should be thoroughly tracked.
Earlier in July, the USDA designated the entire state of Missouri a disaster area due to drought, following a request from Gov. Jay Nixon. As dire as circumstances may be, the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not declare a drought emergency across the whole state.
Michael Hinkebein, a farm loan manager for the FSA who provides credit to farmers in 11 Missouri counties, including those in Franklin and Jefferson, said it’s been years since FEMA declared a drought emergency in the state.
Data on previously declared disasters tracked by FEMA revealed the only time the emergency management agency declared an emergency drought in Missouri was Sept. 24, 1976.
Without that FEMA designation, the regulations for loan recipients are strict and somewhat prohibitive. Farmers must be able to show a 30 percent loss over the past three years of production.
“We’ve got to know what you’re doing and how your doing it,” Hinkebein said.
Ryan Diener, a farm bill biologist affiliated with Quail Forever, said this drought has revealed weak spots in farmers’ traditional haying and grazing systems.
In the earlier summer months, Herring said he talked with farmers and stockmen who spoke with a fair amount of desperation in their voices and consistently responded to “what if” scenarios.
But the bottom line, he said, is there are no such things as drought-proof crops.
He and other specialists promoted that opportunities for change lay in dead fields. He added that weather conditions through the fall look promising.
“If we’d known scheduling a meeting like this would help it rain we would have scheduled it in July,” said Herring.