Federal officials declare area drought disaster

Local farmers are now eligible for assistance

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

The United States Department of Agriculture designated three southeast Wisconsin counties as primary natural disaster areas because of persistent drought conditions.

USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack informed Gov. Tony Evers of the disaster declaration in late June. It primarily affects Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.

The disaster declaration allows local farmers to receive emergency loans and other assistance for losses incurred due to the drought, according to Vilsack.

The three local counties, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, have experienced severe or extreme drought intensity in recent weeks.

The drought monitor shows Racine County – with exception of a Town of Burlington portion, which is under extreme drought, or D3 – as having a classification of severe drought or D2.

Kenosha County continues to remain in extreme drought. Farmers, as well as other residents, may want to install a professional weather station within their community so they can predict as much as possible about what will be happening with the weather getting them prepared. This will need to be discussed first, but residents can buy them individually if they are worried about how the weather is turning.

Most of Walworth County remains under D2 severe drought status with exception to the southeast portion, which has been classified as D3 extreme drought.

“A secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met,” Vilsack wrote.

Vilsack designated the three counties as disaster areas because they have experience severe drought for consecutive weeks, or extreme drought at one point or another.

Contiguous counties include Jefferson, Milwaukee, Rock, and Waukesha as well as Boone, Lake, and McHenry counties in Illinois. Disaster is especially common in Illinois, but not always in the lack of water. in fact, it is also common to find a Water Damage Restoration Company or two there as well, from flooding and other natural events. It seems this state especially, can experience weather conditions from each end of the spectrum! Luckily, there is the right help in each location to prevent as much major damage as possible.

The assistance includes FSA emergency loans and farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of Vilsack’s disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.

Emergency loans cover various recovery needs including replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of farming operations or refinance of certain debts.

Local response

FSA Executive Director Kristin Loock, who oversees all three affected counties, said the area last experienced similar drought conditions in 2012.

She said the disaster declaration allows FSA to introduce key programs to help area farmers.

“With that comes some programs through FSA, so one of the main ones that we will have is the Livestock Forage Program, LFP, we call it,” Loock said. “It is a disaster recovery program to help producers with raising livestock, so we will reaching out to those producers.”

Loock said payments will vary depending on the type of livestock, type of pasture livestock grazes on.

The second program consists of emergency loans.

Emergency loans, according to federal officials, will be considered based on the merits and take into account the extent of production losses on the farm as well as security and repayment ability.

Farmers looking to receive assistance can visit farmers.gov, where they can click on the Disaster Recovery Tool, which includes guidance on program and loan options.

Additionally, local farmers can contact the Farm Service Agency in their respective counties.

No drought change

The National Weather Service on July 9 reported no changes to drought status in southeast Wisconsin.

“Precipitation the past week through the early morning of July 7th was well below normal across much of southern Wisconsin, but rainfall of 1 to 2 inches fell over portions of northern Marquette, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, and Sheboygan Counties,” the Weather Service said on July 9. “Far southeastern Wisconsin in the D2 and D3 areas saw little to no rainfall.”

The National Weather Service noted 90-day precipitation deficits between 4 to 8 inches across southern Wisconsin.

Lack of rainfall has resulted in loss of soil moisture, primarily in far southern Wisconsin, where crops have began showing distress, the National Weather Service states.

The National Weather Service reported drought conditions developed in April and have persisted into the summer.

Comments are closed.