Lots of help for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska affected by drought and wildfires

LINCOLN, NE (KLKN) – Even with the rain we’ve had over the past few weeks, parts of the state are still experiencing severe drought.

This causes challenges for our farmers and ranchers.

“If you look at the drought monitor, we are still very dry. The rain has helped us, but the things we see there are we have had the lowest supply of hay in about 50 years,” said Randy Sanner, beef instructor at the Nebraska Extension.

The USDA says the grazing season in Nebraska is between May 1 and October 15. If drought reaches D3 during that time, farmers can automatically qualify for payment through certain programs.

“The first program we’ll look at is the cattle feed program,” said Pat Lechner of the USDA Farm Services Agency in Nebraska. “This program provides financial assistance to livestock producers who experience grazing loss due to an eligible drought situation.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, also part of the US Department of Agriculture, has fire assistance.

“We keep some money from our EQIP each year for disaster response,” said Brach Johnson, outreach coordinator for the Norwegian Red Cross Society in Nebraska. “We were able to take some of that money, and we started to sign up for the Road 739 bushfire assistance initiative. Sure, there are other counties involved in this, but Phelps, Gosper, Frontier, Farnas County, Red Willow, if you have either farmland or range or grassland affected by bushfires, I’ll just call the local NRCS office to see if they can offer you some help.”

Long-term resilience assistance in the face of drought is also available, including changes in watering practices.

“Definitely, water conservation is our number one goal,” Johnson said.

You may receive help changing your irrigation system.

Johnson said farmers could go from 50 percent efficiency in a worst-case scenario with gravity irrigation to 100 percent with a subsurface drip system.

Assistance programs can be complicated, but don’t let that stop you from reaching the county farm service agency office, which can help you navigate requirements and deadlines and answer specific questions.

For more webinars, check out Agricultural Profitability Center.

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