Richland County Seeking Disaster Declaration | VideoEvan Kruegel | 8/7/2012
Farmers in Richland County say the grass crops just aren`t sprouting up this year.
"The areas that we hayed last year compared to this year, we`ve had up to 70 percent loss in production," said Commissioner Don Steppler.
Steppler is a farmer himself, so the decision to request the declaration of disaster was a no-brainer.
"We didn`t have any winter. There was no snow and no moisture most of the year. We didn`t have the early spring rains, then we had quite a bit of frost damage because of the cold spring, and the grasses just didn`t grow."
Irrigated crops like corn and alfalfa are doing just fine. The dry summer hasn`t hurt those crops at all, which don`t need to rely on rainfall for water. But grass crops depend completely on Mother Nature, who hasn`t provided the moisture they need.
The hay quality in the region is so poor that many farmers have stopped feeding it to their livestock altogether.
"We have older grasses with very little new growth, so the quality of that feed is not great," Steppler said.
Instead, they`ve been using alfalfa mixed with straw. Not quite as tasty for the livestock, but a whole lot cheaper for the farmers.
The declaration of disaster would not simply issue handouts to the region, but instead would offer farmers low-interest loans to cover their losses. The loans could then be used to purchase feed from other areas, or just to keep farms operational for another season.
County commissioners expect to know by next week whether the Governor will issue the declaration.