By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
After receiving much needed rainfall, Spring River Country is still below normal for the year. While the drought appears to have ended, the long term effects on farmers is still being felt and much needed payments totaling $2.3 million have been sent out to area farmers from the Sharp And Fulton County Farm Services Agency offices. The funds, appropriated by a federal drought emergency declaration will assist local farmers in recovering some of the costs associated with the drought.
Sharp and Fulton Counties, along with a small portion of Randolph County are the only counties in the state that were under extreme drought, with a D3-4 rating on the National Drought Monitor, on a scale of 4 being the worst.
The long reaching implications on farmers have been witnessed for weeks. With farming being the state’s largest economic sector bringing an estimated annual $16 billion to the state, according to Arkansas Farm Bureau. Arkansas is in the top 15 cattle producers in the nation. The tough decision to sell off portions of their herds has been a hard pill to swallow.
Many farmers were forced to sell their cattle in July. While they tried to keep their cattle but were unable to feed them due to the dying grasses, many of which were established grass that will have to be resown. They were forced to make the difficult decision to cut their losses. Farmers in this industry rely on grass fields and hay to supplement costlier feed, feed that only continues to rise in price as does the fertilizer utilized to grow the grass and fuel to run the farm equipment.
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, Sharp and Fulton Counties suffered the driest month of June in 128 years, with a 3.65 inch average rain deficit.
Once a county reaches the D3 drought stage, assistance programs through the government are made available
Governor Asa Hutchinson sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seeking a Secretarial Disaster Declaration on July 15 that led to the declaration that made funds available to local farmers on July 29.
The United States Department of Agriculture first declared the disaster to Sharp, Fulton, Randolph and Baxter Counties. Others were added later.
According to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) drought-impacted producers may be eligible for financial assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) to cover above normal expenses for hauling water or feed to livestock or hauling livestock to forage or grazing acres.
Eligible producers in qualifying counties can apply for financial assistance through ELAP for:
• the transportation of water to livestock;
• the above normal cost of mileage for transporting feed to livestock; and
• the above normal cost of transporting livestock to forage/grazing acres.*
The USDA defines eligible livestock as cattle, bison, goats and sheep, among others, that are maintained for commercial use and located in a county where qualifying drought conditions occur. For D3 or D4 delegation, drought intensity may have occurred at any time during the normal grazing period. Producers must have risk in both eligible livestock and eligible grazing land in an eligible county to qualify for ELAP assistance.
The deadline to request all ELAP assistance for 2022 calendar year losses will be Jan. 31, 2023. To view more information on the rules and regulations related to the program, visit https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2022-04-06/pdf/2022-07209.pdf.