Jul 23 2007

USDA expands drought aid for Alabama farmers

Troy Messenger

By Matt Clower

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday expanded its efforts to provide emergency hay and forage to drought-stricken livestock producers throughout much of the state, including Pike County.
On Friday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said emergency hay and use grazing land in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program will be made available to farmers up to 210 miles away from counties declared drought disaster areas.

“We are closely monitoring the drought and providing assistance when we can,” said Johanns. “Emergency haying and grazing is a helpful tool for livestock owners and I'm pleased to make it available to more farmers and ranchers.”

Gov. Bob Riley said he was grateful for the additional aid.

“Alabama is currently suffering from the most severe drought in over one hundred years, and our farmers are taking a direct hit,” Riley said. “While we must continue to find ways to combat the drought, this assistance will allow Alabama's farmers to breathe a little easier during these hard times.”

Alabama's Washington lawmaker praised the decision to expand drought aid to farmers.

“The current drought gripping our state is historic in its intensity and duration, adversely affecting Alabama's largest industry, agriculture,” said Congressman Terry Everett. “While recent rains are having a positive impact in some areas, much of Alabama remains in moderate to extreme drought conditions.”

Autauga, Bullock, Elmore, Geneva, Houston, Montgomery and Pike counties are among those that will benefit from the expanded emergency grazing lands.

“I welcome this decision by Secretary Johanns to make Alabama CRP lands available to the state's livestock producers who are impacted by the ongoing drought,” Everett said. “It is another positive step by the federal government to address the dire need of our state's farmers.”

Sen. Richard Shelby announced last week that he is working to secure additional relief money for Alabama's farmer.

The senator's office announced on Thursday that Shelby, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee had secured $10 million for the Emergency Conservation Programs in the Agriculture Appropriations bill to relive drought stricken areas. Shelby said he also secured an extension of the Livestock Compensation Program from February 28, 2007 to December 31, 2007 included in the fiscal year 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.

”In 2007, we have seen Mother Nature wreak havoc throughout the entire nation,” Shelby said. “Consequently, the agriculture industry is in dire straits with long-term ramifications for the cattlemen, farmer and consumer. Alabama is suffering from the worst drought in over 100 years ...These provisions are important first steps to ensure that our agriculture industry has access to financial assistance now to help them begin recovering from this disaster.”

According to the latest report form the U.S. Drought monitor, about 42-percent of Alabama remains under extreme or exceptional drought conditions. Pike County is currently at the D-1, or moderate drought level, after reaching a high of D-3, or extreme drought in June.