Farmers and ranchers, like the rest of us, are feeling the heat.
Most of Missouri is at increased risk of severe drought due to dry conditions.
On Thursday, Governor Mike Parson signed an executive order He put all or part of his counties, including Boone County, on “extreme or severe drought” alert, allowing the state government to speed up resources and operate amid extreme temperatures.
Rosie Arjanian, of Rocheport, was at Bourn Feed & Supply Friday, buying horse feed, horse labs and animal repellent. The Erganian owns 14 horses in Equestrian activities with the help of Sunny OakTherapeutic riding process.
Irjanian, who owns 35 acres of pasture on her ranch in western Colombia, said the heat is extreme for her horses.
“It affects how my horses work,” she said. “It’s hard for horses.”
She doesn’t try to run it at that level of heat, and instead puts it in front of a fan.
“It is especially difficult for the elderly,” Arjanian said, adding that most of them are elderly.
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As for the governor’s order, she said she’s not sure how it might help her, but it will likely help many farmers in affected areas across the Show-Me state.
The executive order directs four government departments — natural resources, agriculture, conservation, and transportation — to work together and with federal agencies to make resources available to farmers, ranchers, and others affected by drought.
The driest counties lie on the Arkansas border, with Hoyle, Oregon and Ripley counties receiving just over an inch of rain in the past eight weeks, the University of Missouri reports an expansion of materials submitted to the Tribune.
The counties under drought alert status lie primarily south of the Missouri River.
“The drought in southwest and southern Missouri is unprecedented in some ways with other droughts we’ve experienced,” Tim Schnakenberg, an agronomist at MU Extension in Stone County, said in a news release.
Some producers say they have never had worse circumstances in their lives.
“The earliest one was the 1980 drought that led to long periods of high heat and dry weather,” Schnakenberg said. “The pastures and hay fields are drying up more every day, and farmers and ranchers are scrambling to secure additional hay resources. Corn is being shredded or baled and bagged sooner than ever.”
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Melissa Bird, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Boone County is undergoing a heat advisory through Monday. Heat index values from 105 to 109 are expected.
“We anticipate these conditions over the next three days,” Baird said Friday.
Monday could finally bring some relief, with a 50% chance of storms and a high of 85. After that, the temps will creep into the ’90s.
“We have a high-pressure ridge” that keeps her hot, she said.
The best idea, she said, is to stay indoors in air-conditioned buildings.
“When you’re outside, wear loose-fitting clothes, take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of water,” Bird said.
The governor’s order directs the Departments of Natural Resources and Conservation to establish sites in state parks and conservation areas for farmers to access water and hay, primarily for livestock.
Farmers and ranchers who transport hay across the state will also be able to waive some fees and restrictions.
“A drought at this time of year can literally mean financial loss and even havoc for hard-working farm families across the state,” Parson said at a news conference Thursday at the Capitol. “Farmers are already facing rising fertilizer costs, unprecedented fuel prices, supply chain issues and increased operating costs.”
Drew Bunten, director of natural resources, said the state will provide daily updates on drought maps and access to resources on the department’s website.
The One-Stop Shop page can be found at dnr.mo.gov/dfaff.
“I know on my farm that conditions have deteriorated rapidly, and we hear the same reports from countless farm and ranch families across the state,” Parson said in a news release about signing the executive order. “By responding now, early in this drought, we can significantly reduce the impact on our farming community and Missouri citizens.
“Our farmers are a critical resource for our country, and it is important that we help them as much as possible during this difficult time.”
This dry, hot weather comes at a time when agricultural workers already face many challenges, said Chris Chen, state agriculture director.
“Dry conditions in many parts of Missouri are compounding the challenges that producers are already facing,” Chen said in the same release. “…Livestock producers have to make difficult decisions about selling livestock because there are no pastures in many areas. Grain farmers watch their crops wither before pollination.
“Conditions are tough for many farmers and ranchers in Missouri.”
The Missouri drought comes amid heatwaves around the world that have caused droughts across much of the western United States and set record temperatures in Europe.
Asked whether global climate change could contribute to more frequent and severe droughts in the future, Parson said he thought it was “not new to this case.”
“If you are a farmer, you know these are the things that you have to deal with,” he said. “You know there is no magic answer to weather.”
“All my life, I’ve been around, we’ve dealt with these same issues over and over in this instance, and we will continue to do so,” he added.
Galen Bacharier of Springfield News-Leader contributed to this report.
Roger McKinney is an education reporter for the Tribune newspaper. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-815-1719. He is on Twitter at @rmckinney9.
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