Farmer questions if Parson's drought assistance program is enough

1 month 3 days 18 hours ago Tuesday, August 21 2018 Aug 21, 2018 Tuesday, August 21, 2018 3:53:00 PM CDT August 21, 2018 in News
By: Nikki Ogle, KOMU 8 News
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FAYETTE – A mid-Missouri farmer said he is unsure Gov. Mike Parson's drought assistance program for farmers will be enough. 

86 Missouri counties are seeing the effects of the drought, but in mid-Missouri, Howard County’s drought is the most intense.

Fred Weiker is a cattle farmer in Fayette, where the drought is “exceptional,” according to the Drought Monitor.

Gov. Parson granted water access to 28 Department of Conservation areas and five Department of Natural Resources state parks. Family farms may pump up to 5,000 gallons daily for livestock use.

Kurt Boeckmann, Agricultural Liaison for the DNR, said one cow could use 30 to 40 gallons on a hot day. Farmers would only be able to water about 125 to 165 cattle with their daily supply.

“That wouldn’t even feed our entire herd, only groups of them,” Weiker said.

Weiker said he is not sure if he will use the water provided by the Department of Conservation.

“We’ve got to where we can buy the water and if the cost of buying the water is less than pumping it and hauling it, we’ll just continue to buy it.”

The emergency assistance program also features a hay lottery. Farmers may play for their chance to use some of the 900 acres of Missouri State Parks land.

Boeckmann said he is not sure how many farmers will enter the lottery, but he said he believes the recent rain will improve drought conditions.

“Mother Nature is going to help us out here,” he said.

Boeckmann said the drought has been affecting the area since last fall, but he is confident it will eventually end.

Weiker said the extended dryness hurt the hay growth from the past harvest season. He said hay is important for livestock farmers because it is their main source of food for the winter. He said livestock eat grass in the spring and summer, but this year, there has not been enough to eat.

Weiker is already feeding cattle the limited hay supply and may not have enough for the winter.

“Our hay crop was less than a third of what it normally is and we’re already feeding it,” Weiker said. “We bought over $14,000 worth of hay already this year to kind of get some stock pile up. But what we bought won’t last a month.”

For the farmers who don't win the lottery, Weiker said they aren't any worse off than they are now. 

“They’ll have to figure out another solution to find some hay or some kind of forage or something to feed their livestock or sell out,” Weiker said.

Weiker said he thanks Gov. Parson for recognizing the problems farmers are facing, but said he is not sure this assistance program will be enough to solve them.

“It’s a solution to a devastating problem if you have no other source.”

The hay lottery lasts until Saturday, August 25. The DNR will announce the lottery winners on August 27. 

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