Missouri assessing all counties for drought damage

Friday, August 5, 2005

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- All of Missouri's 114 counties are now being assessed by the Missouri Farm Service Agency to determine agricultural damage from dry weather.

Gov. Matt Blunt on Wednesday asked the agency to add eight counties in northwest Missouri to the list, although another state agency says those counties were not under drought conditions as of July 29.

The difference results from the two agencies studying different aspects of Missouri's dry summer. The Missouri Farm Service Agency is primarily interested in the effect of drought only on agriculture. But the Drought Assessment Committee, which is a group of 14 state and federal agencies that coordinate the state's response to dry weather, examines several problems caused by drought.

On Wednesday, Blunt asked the Farm Service Agency to add Barton, Cass, Clay, Jackson, Jasper, McDonald, Newton and Platte counties to its assessment list.

Blunt's spokeswoman, Jessica Robinson, said drought "may impact farmers in different ways than they affect communities."

"The governor has asked for the Farm Service Agency to produce damage assessment reports in all counties so we can really get a feel for how bad it is," she said.

Those assessment reports could make farmers eligible for federal assistance.

Under the Drought Assessment Committee's guidelines, Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Clay, Holt, Jackson, Nodaway, Platte and Worth counties were not in a drought as of July 29.

The committee has issued drought advisories or alerts for the state's 105 other counties.

On Thursday, Blunt and state agriculture secretary Fred Ferrell visited five drought-stricken farms in Ashland, Kirksville, Hannibal, Joplin and Springfield. The governor said he expects to request disaster relief from the federal government for counties deemed eligible.

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