[R76] Rep. McNamara: Drought, one of the worst in state's history (7/26/2012)

Thursday, July 26, 2012 7:00 pm

Start Date:  7/26/2012  Start Time:  12:00 AM
End Date:  7/26/2012  End Time:  11:59 PM
Drought, one of the worst in state’s history

The sweltering heat and lack of rain has had profound effects on all of us, especially Hoosier farmers, as many experts are comparing our current dry spell to the devastating drought of 1936. The U.S. Drought Monitor currently reports that two-thirds of the continental United States is in a moderate to exceptional drought with Southern Indiana being categorized as “exceptionally dry”. 

It has been one of the driest years in Indiana’s history, so staying cool and conserving water is critically important. All of Southwest Indiana has been designated a primary disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with more counties being added across the country every day.

The USDA is offering assistance to farmers devastated by this natural disaster. All qualified farm operators are eligible for low-interest emergency loans (reduced from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent) and should seek assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The USDA is also offering a payment reduction plan on Conservation Reserve Program lands that qualify for emergency haying and grazing in 2012 from 25 to 10 percent. 

Farmers have eight months from the designation date to apply for emergency loan assistance from the FSA, and the FSA will take into account the extent of production losses, security available and repayment ability when determining eligibility.

I strongly urge the farmers in our community to contact their crop insurance company and local FSA office to report damages to crops or livestock loss. Please visit www.in.gov/drought and www.usda.gov/disaster for more information.

In addition to the aid available to our farmers, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently placed all of Indiana’s 92 counties under a water shortage warning. The water shortage warning is step two of three in the state's emergency drought plan.

The warning impacts only significant water withdrawal facilities. Such facilities are asked to conserve 10 to 15 percent of their water intake. The water shortage warning is only a voluntary and cautionary step and is not currently mandatory.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact me by phone at (317) 232-9671 or via e-mail at h76@in.gov.

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Guest column is published in the Posey County News.