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Letter to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture - Acting Quickly on Behalf of Missouri's Farmers and Ranchers

Missouri's Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, is strongly urging Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to act quickly on behalf of the state's farmers and ranchers. The Congressman has sponsored and sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary Vilsack, signed by all members of the Missouri delegation, in the wake of one of the driest summer months in Missouri's history. Preliminary numbers suggest June was the 6th driest June on record in this state and the driest in almost two-and-a-half decades.

"To say I am concerned is an understatement," said U.S. Representative Cleaver. "Our farmers and ranchers are facing extreme conditions with no relief in sight. Many of these hardworking men and women are struggling with the possibility of financial disaster as this drought drags on."

Congressman Cleaver is praising Governor Jay Nixon's request for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration for 114 counties in Missouri and asking the USDA to make the requested Federal resources immediately available.

"Crops are dying, the soil is drying and stock water supplies are declining," said Congressman Cleaver. "I will continue to monitor these conditions, push for the disaster designations, and work to make sure emergency aid is available to get farmers, ranchers and producers the help they need and deserve."

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We write to you in support of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's request for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration for 114 counties in Missouri due to excessive heat and drought. In late June, Gov. Nixon requested that the Missouri Farm Service agency perform damage assessments throughout the State of Missouri to ascertain the scope of the drought conditions. Those reports indicated that 114 Missouri counties are experiencing crop and pasture losses of at least 30%, the applicable threshold for a Disaster Declaration.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map from late June shows much of the State in a moderate drought, with the northeast and south central areas in a severe drought and southeast counties in an extreme drought. Preliminary precipitation data indicate June 2012 was the 6th driest June on record for Missouri and the driest since 1988. According to the Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service, by the end of June, 97% and 93% of the topsoil and subsoil moisture supplies, respectively, were in short to very short condition. Nearly half of the corn and soybean crop was reported to be in poor to very poor condition, and is the highest percentage for the time of year since 1988. Pasture condition had declined to 76% poor to very poor, and hay and stock water supplies were also declining with more than half in short to very short condition. Relief from these extreme conditions is not expected in the near future, and could persist through August and September.

These projections are troubling for crop and forage production across Missouri. A considerable amount of Missouri hay was sold last year to farmers and ranchers in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma to assist with the drought recovery in those states, lowering the overall supply of hay across Missouri at the start of this year. Additionally, in many areas of the State, the drought hit just as corn crops began to tassel and pollination began. If pollination is disrupted, corn yields will be down significantly this fall.

We truly believe USDA assistance is needed to help our great State recover from this ongoing natural disaster and respectfully urge you to make available requested Federal resources. Please feel free to contact us directly should you require additional information.

Sincerely,

Members of the Missouri Delegation of the House of Representatives


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