The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 13, 2012

Governor visits rural Seneca dairy farm to emphasize drought-relief effort

SENECA, Mo. — The pond at Pam and Darren Wilson’s dairy farm has been baked dry by this summer’s unrelenting heat and drought.

“It went dry two months ago,” Pam Wilson said. “Our well has been down to a drip at times.”

With financial help from an emergency cost-share program recently implemented by the state to combat the drought, the Wilsons are getting a new well to provide water for their dairy cows.

“We have 75 head,” Pam Wilson said. “Milk cows take a lot of water. We have to take care of our cows first because they take care of us.”

As Gov. Jay Nixon met with the Wilson family on Monday, state Rep. Bill Lant told the governor: “This is what this program is for — to help families like this one. When we lose a dairy in Missouri, they don’t come back.”

Nixon said he hoped the emergency cost-share program he implemented will not only save the Wilson farm, but add value to it with the addition of the new well. He said the well would help the Wilsons survive a future drought.

“Agriculture, from the jobs it provides to the revenue it generates, is a pillar of the Missouri economy,” Nixon said. “That’s why we’ve taken immediate steps to support this important sector of our economy during a very difficult time.”

To keep their dairy cows hydrated, the Wilsons, who have been in the dairy business for 28 years, purchased a 1,100-gallon tank in May for water hauled from a shallow well on their property.

Their new well is being drilled by Norm Houston, with Neosho Drilling, who said the cost-share program has created “a huge amount of work for well drillers. It’s going to make one hell of a difference statewide. I’ve done 30 or so wells, and we have a backlog of at least 20.”

Houston said the new well at the Wilson farm will be 600 to 650 feet deep and should produce 50 to 60 gallons of water a minute.

As the governor toured the dairy, Lucille and Marshall Ridgway watched the proceedings from the back porch of the Wilson farmhouse. Pam Wilson is their granddaughter.

“It’s been the worst drought I have ever seen,” said Lucille Ridgway, who lives south of Seneca. “It’s been two years in a row. It’s been really bad for the farmers.”

Nixon issued an executive order on July 23, authorizing the state Soil and Water Districts Commission to establish the program to provide urgent relief for farmers and producers facing critical shortages of water. To be eligible for the program, projects have to provide immediate and material relief for the farmer or producer.

To date, the program has approved more than 4,400 applications for assistance at an average cost of about $4,800 per livestock project.

The program covers 90 percent of the cost of an emergency water project, such as digging or deepening a well or connecting a farm to a rural water system. The producer or farmer pays the remaining 10 percent. The maximum state match for any project is $20,000.

Another visit

GOV. JAY NIXON also visited a farm in Polk County on Monday.

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