Mitigation, response plan published day after Missouri issues drought alert

(The Center Square) – The day after Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a drought alert, the Division of Natural Resources announced publication of a new mitigation and response plan.

January to April was the 46th wettest period in 128 years in Missouri with 12.23 inches of precipitation, almost an inch above normal, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, April was the fourth driest month in 128 years with only 1.71 inches of precipitation, 2.26 inches below normal.

The agency reports all or portions of 60 of Missouri’s 114 counties are in moderate, severe or extreme drought.

The 321-page “Drought Mitigation and Response Plan” took two years to complete and replaced the 2002 plan. The plan is intended to provide information on reducing drought impacts, increasing public awareness, enhancing resiliency, promoting water conservation, improving monitoring, coordinating planned responses and clarifying various roles and responsibilities of state agencies. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided a grant to pay for half the cost of the multiyear project.

Parson’s order directs Dru Buntin, director of the Department of Natural Resources, to activate Missouri’s Drought Assessment Committee, comprised of the Department of Conservation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Economic Development, Department of Health and Senior Services and Department of Public Safety.

“With the summer months fast approaching, we want to be proactive to help mitigate the impacts of drought conditions we are experiencing,” Parson said in a statement. “Missouri farmers and ranchers often bear the brunt of the consequences of drought, and we are already starting to see early effects on crops and livestock. While we cannot control the weather, we are committed to doing everything we can to alleviate the strain drought causes for our agricultural families and protect our food supply chains.”

Precipitation data from remote areas and satellite measurements of soil moisture, unavailable 20 years ago, now assist state agencies. Michael Weller, with the department’s Water Resource Center, said the new plan will help state agencies and citizens take proactive measures.

“We can never prevent droughts,” Weller said in a statement. “However, by planning for different scenarios, outlining responsibilities and making the best use of information available, we can make sure Missourians are prepared and empowered when drought does come.”

Missouri’s May Grain Crop Review, published by the Department of Agriculture, reported weather hasn’t delayed farmers as 98% of corn has been planted and 93% has emerged or sprouted. Last year, emergence was 73% at this time and the five-year average is 76%. It reported 86% of the state’s soybean crop is planted, 36% ahead of last year and 39% ahead of the five-year average. Soybean emergence is 69%, 40% better than last year and 39% better than the five-year average.

Missouri’s soybean industry is approximately $2 billion, seventh in the nation, and its corn is valued at $1.8 billion, ranked 10th.

“Driving down the road, one can see some fields with patches,” the crop review stated. “The whole state could use a good rain.”

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