NEOSHO, Mo. —
Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday that he is extending until Nov. 15 the state of emergency for Missouri he declared in July because of the heat, fire risk and prolonged drought affecting the state.
Speaking at the New-Mac Electric Cooperative in Neosho, the governor also extended the deadline to help Missouri beef producers and farmers complete water projects approved under the drought-relief program the state established on July 23.
Nixon commended the state’s rural electric cooperatives that have expedited electrical connections to service the water projects.
Mitch McCumber, general manager of New-Mac, said, “We have been very busy. We were going to send crews to help out with Hurricane Isaac, but we decided we needed them more to respond to our own natural disaster here.’’
McCumber said New-Mac crews have made electrical connections for 34 well and water projects under the state’s drought-relief program, and that 23 more are in the works.
Since late July, more than 5,800 projects have been approved under the emergency cost-share program to drill new wells, deepen existing wells or undertake other projects to get water to animals and crops.
As of Monday, more than 4,400 projects have been completed or are under construction.
The drought-relief program, Nixon said, has met “an immediate need’’ to provide water and will help Missouri continue to be the nation’s No. 2 state for cow-calf production.
“Despite the rain we’ve seen over the past two weeks, Missouri’s agricultural community still has a pressing need for water, especially for livestock,” Nixon said.
“These projects are making a real difference for Missouri agriculture, and we want the projects that have been approved to be completed as soon as possible. By extending the state of emergency for 45 additional days and allowing these projects to continue to move forward, we will ensure that Missouri producers and farmers get the access to water they need so critically.”
The deadline for the completion of that work had been Sept. 23.
Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station in Mount Vernon, said the drought has caused very few beef producers to fold up shop in Southwest Missouri.
“Farmers are innovative,” Cole said. “They’ll go the extra mile to haul water when their ponds dry up and their well is not adequate to carry them. I don’t think many farmers decided to sell all their cows, wait for it to rain and then get back in.
“But there has been a general reduction in the herd,’’ he said. “That has more to do with a shortage of feed supplies in that they could not find hay and grain prices are so much higher.’’
Cole said recent rains have caused bone-dry pastures to turn green.
“We’re definitely in better shape than we were, but there has been little runoff into ponds,’’ he said. “Emergency forage crops have been seeded. All we need now is a favorable growing season this fall.’’
Under the drought-relief program, more than 11,000 applications were submitted to the state in a two-week period. Of that number, more than 5,800 were approved. Many of them were approved in Southwest Missouri where cow-calf operations are concentrated.
The program covered 90 percent of the cost of the emergency water project, such as digging or deepening a well or connecting a farm to a rural water supply. The producer or farmer pays the remaining 10 percent. The average allocation per approved livestock project was approximately $4,800.
To ensure accountability to taxpayers, the governor has created a compliance team to audit the relief program under the direction of the state’s budget director.