Gov. Jay Nixon this weekend directed Dr. Jon Hagler, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, to request that the USDA Farm Service Agency open Conservation Reserve Program lands to grazing in counties meeting requirements for shortages of hay/forage and precipitation.
Approximately 1.4 million acres of Missouri land are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. When a county meets specific requirements, including a 40 percent shortage of hay/forage and precipitation, these lands can be opened for grazing. Last week, 58 percent of the state's pastures were rated as poor or very poor in the USDA's Weekly Progress Report. Missouri also is running 48 percent short or very short on hay supplies.
"Agriculture is the backbone of Missouri's economy, and our farmers are currently facing extreme hardships because of record heat and low precipitation," Gov. Nixon said. "We need to make every possible resource available to our farmers and producers to help them through these challenges. That's why I instructed the Missouri Department of Agriculture to request the opening of Conservation Reserve Program lands to help our farmers move forward in these extremely dry conditions."
On June 25, Gov. Nixon requested that the Farm Service Agency assess damages resulting from dry conditions in the state. This weekend, Gov. Nixon met with firefighters and emergency responders who have been battling a fire in the Mark Twain National Forest in Iron County, Mo.
Gov. Nixon also has ordered the Missouri National Guard to ready personnel and supplies to support firefighting operations in the state if needed.
In addition, the Governor urged Missourians to take special precautions as the state prepares for the July 4 holiday.
"The forecast for this week calls for continued record temperatures and dry conditions, so folks need to be especially careful," Gov. Nixon said. "Pay attention to local bans on burning and fireworks, stay indoors, drink water, and check on your neighbors. Together, we can ensure that Missouri families enjoy a happy and safe Independence Day."
If Missourians spot a fire, Gov. Nixon said they should call 911 or the local emergency number immediately. Missourians should not attempt to fight fires on their own. Instead, they should notify local authorities right away.
Missourians who need information about cooling centers or agricultural or other resources, including the state hay director, should visit MO.gov.