Four counties in northern Arkansas have been designated as natural disaster areas by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday on Twitter.
In a letter sent to the governor, Vilsack said four counties — Baxter, Fulton, Randolph and Sharp — suffered from the cost of drought during the growing season of severe drought, severe drought or exceptional drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.
In addition to those four counties, Vilsack said, eight other counties in Arkansas and four in Missouri that are contiguous to the four main counties have been named contiguous disaster counties. The counties in Arkansas are Clay, Greene, Independence, Izard, Lawrence, Marion, Searcy and Stone. The Missouri counties named are Howell, Oregon, Ozark and Ripley.
In the letter, Visack said a secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in core counties and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency, including more -FSA emergency loan, provided eligibility requirements are met.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a secretary’s disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. The FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment capacity of the operator.
Denise Frame, administrative assistant to Sharp County Judge Gene Moore, said conditions there are so dry that many farmers are selling cattle for lack of hay.
“Our hay cut guy is 2,800 bales short this year,” Frame said. “On Friday, they were lined up along the highway at the sale barn with those selling their cattle because there was no pasture left.”
Rain has helped move into the area over the past few days, Frame said, and the promise of more rain over the weekend is a welcome change from the hot, dry conditions that have prevailed in recent weeks.
“We did have rain last night and the night before,” she said Friday. “We got, I think, just over an inch here in the Highland area, but Sidney and Cave City got, like, 3-1/2 inches. That’ll help, but I don’t know if we’re going to get more. Hey cut it .”
Jeremy Ratliff, a cattle rancher in Cave City, said he hasn’t had to sell any of his herd of 300 stock cows and has kept his feeder cattle size at about 700 head, but he said he’s been forced by conditions. to be creative to feed his cows.
“We probably don’t have half the hay we need in a normal year,” he said. “We’re trying to do other things. We’re cutting some corn silage and trying to do something to replace the hay we need.”
Even with 1,400 acres of pasture, Ratliff said the cost of feeding his herd is a concern. He said many of his neighbors have cut their herd sizes significantly or sold their herds.
“When you run out of weed, things get tough in a hurry,” he said. “I know people who have sold their cows or culled really deep, trying to sell enough to get through it.”
In neighboring Randolph County, conditions are much the same. County Judge Ronald Barnett said rain over the past few days has helped but more is needed to alleviate the tinder dry conditions in his county.
“I haven’t helped enough to lift the fire ban,” he said.
Farmers in the county have been hit hard, Barnett said.
“Some of them have already disked up their beans and some haven’t even planted anything because it’s so dry,” Barnett said. “It’s so wet there in the spring that they can’t do it and when it dries out, it dries out. It hurts the farmers.”
Barnett said the recent rain and the rainy weekend were a welcome change from weeks of hot, dry weather.
“Pastures are starting to turn a little greener,” he said. “I’ve got some cows too, and my pasture looks better than it is. My hillsides are brown and don’t have any grass on them, but they’re starting to get a little green now. , and my river bottom looks like I might get a second cutting of hay out of it.”
Although the recent rain has helped, officials at the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock said the relief will be short-lived as dry conditions begin to settle in again. Meteorologist Travis Shelton said the frontal boundary that moved into the state on Friday will bring a good chance of rain to much of the state over the weekend to go along with the rain of the past few days.
During the 72-hour period ending at 7 a.m. Friday, Shelton said, Mountain Home in Baxter County received just under 4.25 inches of rain, and Salem in Fulton County received just more. at 2.5 inches. In Randolph County, Pocahontas received 1.79 inches of rain in the same 72-hour period and Sharp County’s town of Hardy received 1.4 inches.
Before Wednesday and Thursday, Shelton said, the last measured rainfall in Fulton County was 1.07 inches that fell in Salem on July 17. On the same day, he said, Mountain Home received .01 inch of rain.
Shelton said all locations in the four counties are subject to additional rain over the weekend, with the forecast calling for an inch or more above average with locally higher amounts possible.
“This is a temporary relief of the situation,” he said. “I’m sure it will help, but we’ll be back to warmer and drier conditions next week. By Wednesday, we’ll be back in the upper 90s. Not as warm as usual, but we’re seeing a trend back in that direction.”