Hughes County Commission makes emergency drought declaration, seeking federal funds
Hughes County Commission makes emergency drought declaration, seeking federal funds.
The Hughes County Commission declared a natural-disaster drought emergency on Monday at their regular meeting, hoping it will unleash some federal and state funds to help farmers who have already lost wheat, hay and pasture-grass crops.
The county’s farmers have reported $16.85 million worth of crop losses, with 90.7 percent of those losses coming from the winter-wheat crop alone, which was planted last fall, according to assessments given to the five-man commission by Brian Stewart.
The remaining 9.32 percent of the estimated losses come from spring wheat, alfalfa and pasture-grass crops, according to figures Stewart gave the commission on Monday.
In his “loss assessment reports,” which he will turn in with the commission’s emergency declaration, Stewart said that 300 farmers in the county were hit hard by the hot, dry conditions, including receiving only 61 percent of normal precipitation from Jan. 1 to June 1.
“We know there are a lot of losses to winter wheat,” Stewart told the commission.
The drought disaster declaration cites “inadequate winter snowfall, inadequate spring rainfall, desolating winds and late frost conditions,” which led the commissioners to unanimously declare “that said drought conditions constitute a natural disaster of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of this county, and even the state of South Dakota, and that federal assistance is necessary.
(but) there may be some disaster money out there,” Stewart’s assessment reports said that county farmers lost 3.32 million bushels of winter-wheat yield on 56,311 acres in the county, caused by the hot, dry conditions since March 1 and lasting season-long, as well as a late frost at the end of May.
The alfalfa on 3,712 acres in the county was hit first by a late, damaging frost from May 20-22, that did an estimated $211,584 of hurt – knocking off 2,227 tons of hay valued at $95 a ton, according to Stewart.
Ranchers in the county also reported losses in value of $89,318 on 105,500 acres of pasture, according to Stewart.