Drought Drives Disaster

Kentucky Farm Bureau asks federal government for disaster assistance for farmers hit by drought.

Published on: Sep 3, 2007

With a severe drought ravaging crops and pastures, Kentucky Farm Bureau is requesting economic assistance for farmers.

Farm Bureau President Marshall Coyle, on behalf of the organization, sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Michael Johanns, asking him to declare Kentucky a disaster area, thereby making qualifying farmers eligible for low-interest loans and other federal disaster relief programs.

Kentucky Farm Bureau also is working with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and other groups to find sources of hay for livestock producers. The department has a toll free hotline at 888-567-9589 that lists hay for sale and is listing web sites for out-of-state sources.

In his letter to Johanns, Coyle wrote: "In April, 2007, Kentucky farmers experienced severe freeze damage to many crops across the Commonwealth. This freeze resulted in significant damage to forage crops. Farmers across Kentucky now are suffering extreme heat and drought conditions, further exacerbating the already critical forage situation and greatly diminishing yields for grain producers. Due to these conditions, we ask for your support in securing disaster declaration."

Coyle went on to note that UK's Agricultural Weather Center reports that 73% of the state is in extreme drought condition.

The Farm Bureau leader also sent letters to Governor Ernie Fletcher and Kentucky's Congressional delegation, requesting their support of a disaster declaration and for immediate direct financial assistance for ag producers. He told Governor Fletcher that forage losses valued at from $250 million to $400 million are possible, and that "even if we get fall rains, we will face a serious shortage of livestock forages well into 2008."

Coyle suggested that Governor Fletcher direct state and federal agencies to place emphasis on hay and pasture establishment and to encourage the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board to consider funding projects that would rebuild hay and pasture stocks.
Hay prices are soaring as livestock producers scramble to maintain their herds. Many have been forced to sell livestock, as evidenced by Kentucky market reports showing higher volumes and lower prices.

Much of the state's soybean and corn crops were listed in poor condition at the beginning of September, according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service.

Soybeans are in the critical pod and seed-fill stages of development and are in need of lower temperatures and rainfall to develop properly. Otherwise, they will likely develop smaller beans and may not develop all the beans in the pods, said Jim Herbek, extension grains crop specialist.

Corn yields are expected to be down at least 26 bushels per acre from last year's 146-bushel state average, according to UK.