State farmers seek relief from drought

Published 2:36 am Monday, July 16, 2007

By Staff
Special to the Standard
Alabama agricultural organizations Friday called on state and national officials to speed relief to the state's farmers who have been hit hard by the worst drought in 100 years.
During a news conference held in a parched cornfield just outside of Montgomery, representatives from the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Cattlemen's Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and Alabama Forestry Association gathered to let farmers tell their stories.
Escambia County farmers have not experienced the severity of the drought that north Alabama farmers have, but they have lost some crops because of the dry conditions.
Macon County farmer Shep Morris, who suffered a total loss on 700 acres of corn, said this is the worst spring drought he's ever experienced.
The farmers said they appreciate Alabama's congressional delegation, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and Gov. Bob Riley for requesting drought assistance. However, the farmers fear their immediate needs may not be met unless Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture act quickly to fund disaster programs.
Among the types of assistance farmers need most are: disaster funding for crop losses, the release of discretionary funding by USDA to fund emergency conservation programs to dig wells and replant pastures, cost-share assistance to replant pine seedlings killed by the drought, money to offset transportation costs associated with buying hay from out of state and long-term assistance in the form of a 2007 Farm Bill that funds irrigation initiatives, a permanent disaster program and more affordable crop insurance.
The farmers are asking not only for help from lawmakers, but also their fellow citizens. They encouraged those concerned about the drought to contact their congressmen and senators and request an emergency appropriation for the agricultural disaster in Alabama. Concerned citizens also are urged to call the secretary of agriculture and request discretionary funding be released for emergency programs that could benefit producers.
For senators and congressmen, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121; for Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, call (202) 720-3631. You may also e-mail your congressman, senators and Johanns by clicking on the flashing &#8220Action Alert” in the top right corner of
Walker County farmer Dorman Grace said poultry farmers also have been affected by the drought.
"”Being a poultry producer I have not been able to spread litter on my fields, there has not been the water available to soak up the nutrients,” he said. &#8220I have also sold over 100 brood cows in order to afford feed for the rest of my herd, and I'm expecting to face some re-seeding costs down the road. Overall, the drought has affected every part of my farming operation.”
For timber farmers, the drought is to blame for dead seedlings and mature trees as well as low prices and disease problems.
Drought-stressed trees also have fallen victim to pine beetle damage, and Parnell said the dry weather has caused a glut of timber on the market - driving down prices.
Although showers in the last two weeks have brought some relief, Coffee County farmer Max Bozeman said, for many farmers, it's too little, too late.
For more information about drought conditions, visit

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