Archive for Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Drought aid sought for Douglas County

Governor applies for federal disaster declaration so farmers can receive low-interest loans

December 23, 2003

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— Eight more Kansas counties -- including Douglas and Franklin -- would be declared federal drought disaster areas under a request made Monday by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

State officials say dry conditions have reached disaster status in 92 of 105 counties.

If the request is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers in the disaster areas would be eligible for low-interest loans. After several years of tough conditions, the help would be welcome.

"We need it pretty bad," said Mike Wintermantel, a farmer in southern Douglas County. "Things are pretty lean."

In addition to Douglas and Franklin counties, Sebelius requested that Edwards, Gove, Lyon, Morris, Pawnee and Pratt counties be declared drought disaster areas.

In October, she asked for federal declaration in 73 counties, which state officials say is expected soon. Eleven Kansas counties, stretching along the Oklahoma border from Chautauqua to Morton counties, received disaster declarations earlier.

"Ongoing drought caused production losses as high as $275 million this year," Sebelius said. "Drought disaster designations and low-interest loans help those farmers who are being pushed to the brink by yet another year of drought."

Like much of the state, Douglas County has been on a roller coaster when it comes to moisture.

Abundant spring rains raised hopes and plants, which were later knocked down by a scorching, dry summer.

A section of walkway to the Clinton Lake Marina that usually floats
in water is beached as an unidentified man walks across the bridge
Monday. Despite recent snowfall and rains, the ground is still dry,
and the overall lack of precipitation this past year also has
caused the lake to drop. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is pushing to have
Douglas County and neighboring Franklin County added to the federal
list of official drought counties.

A section of walkway to the Clinton Lake Marina that usually floats in water is beached as an unidentified man walks across the bridge Monday. Despite recent snowfall and rains, the ground is still dry, and the overall lack of precipitation this past year also has caused the lake to drop. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is pushing to have Douglas County and neighboring Franklin County added to the federal list of official drought counties.

Wintermantel, who farms about 1,400 acres, said, "As far as income off the corn and soybeans, it was slim and none."

He said the ground needed a lot of moisture this winter to saturate the soil.

"They claim that we are drier now than in the 1930s," he said.

In Douglas County, crops have produced from $13.5 million to $19.5 million annually over the past five years, a far cry from the $29.5 million worth of crops raised in 1997, officials said. The main crops in Douglas County are soybeans and corn.






"I'm certain our subsoil moisture is not where we would like to have it," said Bill Wood, Douglas County extension agent for agriculture. "Going into the spring, we would like to see our soil profile full down three or four feet. That way if you hit dry weather, you have enough to carry your crops for a while," he said.

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