Counties affected by drought declared natural disaster areas

RUSSELL COUNTY, Kansas — Even with a wet winter and sporadic rain, much of the state is still in a drought. The widespread severe areas that were affected a month ago have shrunk, but it’s still dry enough that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared Kansas counties as primary natural disaster areas.

The counties identified include Barton, Ellsworth, Kiowa, Mitchell, Edwards, Jewell, Lincoln, Osborne, Smith and Russell.

The disaster declaration gives farmers more options if they suffer losses because of the drought.

“There could be some wheat that they know is already lost that crop insurance may have already released and once crop insurance releases that crop as a total loss, at that point then they can come in and apply for the emergency loan programs,” said Mark Hermon, with the Farm Service Agency in Russell County.

Winter wheat is a major crop that suffers from the drought.

“During the winter where it was below zero for a certain period of time, there was no snow cover on the wheat that could cause losses, the drought conditions also hurt that because if the ground is dry that’s going to make the losses worse during the for the winter kill,” said Hermon.

Most farmers won’t know if they have the 30% loss of crops to qualify for the loan until later this year.

“You know if they have a poor wheat crop they might end up having a strong spring crop, which may offset the losses on the wheat crop,” said Hermon.

A lot of wheat has been lost already but ranchers can suffer business losses due to a lack of pasture as well.

“The farmer’s ponds are dried out, some of the wells have dried up and it’s hard to haul water all summer to these pastures. So based on that they just can’t take the cows to those pastures,” said Hermon.

Farmers have 8 months from this disaster declaration to apply for loans if they have a 30% loss on their crops or pastures.

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