FARGO, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring today thanked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for his help during last year’s drought and advised that this year could be even more stressful for North Dakota farmers and livestock producers, with multiple state agencies already preparing and coordinating their responses in case drought conditions worsen.
“Our resilient farmers and ranchers face the very real likelihood of another difficult drought season, with the onset of poor pasture conditions and high risk of wildfires occurring earlier than last year,” Burgum said. “And, like last year, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to helping our producers and citizens manage these conditions, mobilizing all appropriate state resources to ensure their safety and economic security.”
“Although recent weather events have helped, nearly 62 percent of the state is still in a moderate to severe drought,” said Goehring, who is on an international trade mission and had staff attending Perdue’s visit. “Unfortunately, we may be heading into another year with challenging conditions.”
Burgum and Goehring expressed their gratitude for Perdue’s swift response in granting requests to release Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency haying and grazing. Depending on how drought conditions develop, similar requests may be necessary this year, they said.
Next week, members of the State Drought/Wildfire Unified Command will resume their biweekly meetings that began last June when Gov. Burgum signed an executive order declaring a drought emergency and activated the State Emergency Operations Plan. The unified command, which includes the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and State Water Commission, stopped meeting over the fall and winter months but never deactivated.
Funding released last year by the State Water Commission to support emergency livestock water supply projects also is still available. The program provides eligible livestock producers with 50 percent cost-share assistance of up to $3,500 per project, with up to three projects per applicant. Since the program was revived last June, nearly $1.6 million in cost-share funding has been approved for 514 projects by 398 applicants. About $433,000 in unallocated funds remain in the program.
Launching the program was among several actions taken to help farmers and livestock producers manage last year’s drought. Through the signing of 10 executive orders, the governor waived hauling permit fees, hours of service and distance limits for farm vehicles transporting livestock, hay and water. Burgum and Goehring also held drought information meetings with farmers and ranchers in five western North Dakota communities.
At Goehring’s request, the state Emergency Commission, which the governor chairs, also made funding available for a hay transportation assistance program. About 500 producers applied for nearly $4.1 million in assistance, receiving roughly 36 percent of their costs. More than 289,000 hay bales were moved a combined distance of 1.3 million miles.
Drought resources are available on www.ndresponse.gov, the official state website for major events impacting the public, and will be updated as conditions change. The site includes links to information about livestock and crop production; feeds and feeding; forages and grazing; water quality; farm and family stress; animal health; transporting livestock, hay and water; feeding resources; the U.S. Drought Monitor; and more. It also links to programs still available to producers who were affected by last year’s drought.