FSA pursuing drought disaster declaration

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

For three straight months, portions of Henry County have had 21 days without rain, including a 12-day stretch at the end of May.

The county’s farmers are acutely aware of the lack of rain, and last week, Dennis Campbell with the USDA Farm Service Agency drafted a letter requesting the county receive a disaster declaration.

Exactly what that means for farmers is up in the air, as the U.S. congress left for its summer break without addressing the nation’s farm bill, a package that would make available some disaster programs.

“Right now, the immediate thing (a disaster declaration) would do, is it would allow us to make emergency loans to farmers,” Campbell said. Anything else, however, would have to come through the farm bill, including any disaster funding. “Right now, with the farm bill, we’re in between. One has expired, and one is being developed.

“There’s technically, at this time, no disaster programs.”

To receive the disaster declaration, Campbell said the local county emergency board, made up of USDA members in each county, meet and determin by looking at the crops, what a given county’s losses are. From there, the emergency board makes a report. If the board finds a crop that may meet a threshold of loss at 30 percent or higher, the county is triggered for a disaster declaration.

That report is then sent “higher up the chain.” Campbell felt confident the request would be approved, “it’s just a matter of time.”

Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent said he’s placed calls with the offices of Senators Mitch McConnell and Rick Rand about the county’s drought conditions.

Despite some recent rainfall, Brent said the county burn ban remains in effect. “I’m still getting calls about the burn ban,” he said. While some parts of the county are green, he said, parts of the county are not.

As recorded by volunteer CoCoRaHS stations in Campbellsburg, Eminence, New Castle, Pleasureville and Turners Station, May, June and July each were that dry. But in May, an average of about 5.4 inches of rain fell. June and July combined for just a bit over that.

June was the second driest month of the year with 2.01 inches of rain — most of which fell on June 1; that’s second only to February, where CoCoRaHS volunteers recorded 1.67 inches of precipitation.

May remains the wettest month of the year with 5.4 inches of rain, on average, across the CoCoRaHS stations.


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