(The Center Square) – As moderate to severe drought conditions spread throughout the southern half of Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson today issued an executive order declaring an alert in 53 of the state’s 114 counties.
Parson was accompanied by leaders of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Conservation at the capitol as he announced the activation of a Drought Assessment Committee. State agencies are directed to assist affected communities through temporary suspension of administrative rules and appropriation.
Parson also directed the DNR and the Department of Conservation to create a system for livestock farmers to access water at state parks and conservation areas when water sources – ponds, creeks and streams – dry up. DNR also will determine where hay can be harvested in state parks. The Department of Transportation will offer special permits and waive specific fees and restrictions for farmers and ranchers transporting hay.
After spring rains delayed farmers from planting this spring, Parson said they then faced high fertilizer costs, fuel prices, supply chain problems and other increased operational costs before the drought.
“That’s why this administration wants to stay ahead of this drought and make additional resources available now,” Parson said. “We’ve learned from past experience that the more proactive we are, the better we can help our farmers and citizens to lessen the impact of even the most severe droughts.”
Temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees throughout the state during the next week. Chris Chinn, director of the Department of Agriculture, said a drought in 2018 affected mostly northern Missouri and put stress on available water. This year, the drought will impact a large portion of more than two million beef cows as Missouri is the third-largest producer in the nation.
“This is going to have a huge impact on our markets,” Chinn said. “There’s little to no grass for livestock. Producers are having to make some really tough decisions. They’re having to cull part of their herds and send them to market. Others have already started feeding hay in July when normally you wouldn’t do that until the fall. Even if we do get that rain, this problem doesn’t go away with that rain. It’s going to continue into the winter months.”
Parson, a third-generation farmer who owns and operates a cow and calf operation near Bolivar in southwest Missouri, said droughts, floods and other weather events are nothing new for the state’s farmers and ranchers.
“In my entire lifetime, and I’ve been around, we’ve dealt with these same issues over and over again in this state and we’ll continue to do that,” Parson said. “Farmers that live and breathe this every day understand what we’re doing here.”