JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Gov. Mike Parson has issued a drought alert for half of the state following dry conditions and high temperatures.
About 75% of the state is in a drought and more than 30% is in a severe drought. Parson said farmers are struggling to keep their crops alive and feed their livestock which is why he’s asking Missourians to use “common sense.”
“You see what’s going on right now, so I think everyone needs to be a little conservative about how we are using especially water,” said Parson. “I think common sense has got to prevail here a little bit.”
Another week of temperatures above 100 in many parts of the state and a lack of rain.
“Since June 1, over 90 wildfires have been reported with 491 acres consumed so far,” said Sara Parker Pauley, Department of Conservation Director.
These dry conditions are affecting Missouri’s number one industry: agriculture.
“Our farmers and ranchers are going through another challenging year,” said Chris Chinn, Department of Agriculture. “They’ve seen high fertilizer costs, high fuel costs, all of their inputs have gone up and the last thing they needed right now was to be dealing with a drought.”
Missouri is home to 95,000 farms. Parson issued an executive order on Thursday, placing 53 counties in the south and central Missouri under a drought alert. The governor, along with the directors from the departments of agriculture, conservation, and natural resources are working together to allow farmers to access water at state parks.
“They will be using this to water their livestock,” said Chinn. “They are having ponds that are drying up at this time, so that’s going to be one of their biggest needs.”
The Department of Natural Resources is in the process of looking for state park areas that can be available for haying while the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is waiving certain fees and restrictions to farmers moving hay.
“This will not go away with the first rains that come in two to three weeks,” said Parson. “This will affect these farmers in the fall, it will affect them in the winter because of these conditions that we are dealing with now.”
The Show-Me State is third in the nation for beef cows. Chinn said there’s little to no grass left for feeding.
“Producers are having to make some really tough decisions,” said Chinn. “They are having to cull part of their herd and send them to market. Others have started feeding hay in July when normally you wouldn’t do that until fall.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of southern Missouri, including Howell, Oregon, Carter, and Ripley counties are in an extreme drought. The rest of southern Missouri is in a severe drought and through the center and southeastern Missouri, counties are considered an abnormally dry and moderate drought.
“A lot of our crops are also grown in the southeast portion of the state,” said Chinn. “They make up a big impact on the number of row crops. We have cotton, we have rice, we have corn and soybeans down there.”
Parson, a farmer himself, said his office has reached out to Sen. Roy Blunt and the federal government for additional resources. For now, he said Missourians don’t have to worry about running out of water, but a concern is how this drought is going to affect the cost of food.
Director of the DNR Dru Buntin said the state plans to provide daily updates on drought maps and access to water for farmers on the department’s website.
The Soil and Water Conservative Commission plans to hold a special session Monday to consider assistance and variances that can help agriculture producers. DNR will activate the Drought Assessment Committee and associated drought impact teams.
The drought alert is part of the state’s drought plan, which allows the governor to direct state agencies to work together to provide as many resources as possible. It allows temporary suspension of appropriations and other administrative rules to mitigate the effects of the drought.
Counties under the drought alert are as follows: Barry, Barton, Boone, Butler, Camden, Carter, Cedar, Christian, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Douglas, Gasconade, Greene, Hickory, Howard, Howell, Iron, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Laclede, Lafayette, Lawrence, Maries, McDonald, Miller, Mississippi, Moniteau, New Madrid, Newton, Oregon, Ozark, Pemiscot, Pettis, Phelps, Polk, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, Saline, Scott, Shannon, Stoddard, Stone, Taney, Texas, Wayne, Webster, and Wright.