Most federal drought relief programs and the state’s cost-share financial assistance have ended, but Missouri farmers and ranchers still face the challenges from the drought started last summer, according to Kelly Smith, the marketing and commodities director for Missouri Farm Bureau.
“Looking (forward) into this summer, it’s gonna stay on the dry side,” Smith said. “The moisture received has not been substantial.”
Smith said the recent rainfall didn’t provide enough runoff water to feed the livestock or to help crop planting.
“If you go deep, two or three feet into the soil where the plant roots get to, there’s still no water,” she said.
Currently, the only government assistance still available to Missouri farmers is federal emergency farm loans. Announced last July by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the loans authorized framers to borrow funds with a 2.12 percent interest rate, a decrease from the original 3.75 percent.
Last month, the USDA re-designated 31 Missouri counties as primary natural disaster areas, giving farmers and ranchers in these areas another eight months to apply for the emergency loans. As of Feb. 8, there had been 11 applications. However, “the overall loan volume continues to be at record levels,” said Dana Rogge of the Missouri Farm Service Agency.
The USDA has used other methods to assist farmers, including releasing land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program for emergency haying and grazing. The program ended last November.
At the state level, Gov. Jay Nixon’s cost-share emergency program with the state’s Soil and Water Districts Commission helped about 5,800 farmers and ranchers to drill or deepen water wells, KOMU reported last fall. That number was half of all the applications that the Missouri Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources received.
The state has no specific drought relief programs active at the moment.
“New programs will need to go through the governor’s executive order,” said Renee Bungart, communications director from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington are pushing for an overhaul to farm subsidies, Politico reports. Legislators are calling for the elimination of the current system of direct cash payments to farmers — a program that costs taxpayers a reported $5 billion per year — in favor of more crop insurance and relief-focused farm funding.