Kosciusko County, and most of Indiana and the Midwest, has experienced one of the worst droughts in recent memory. Until the last couple of weeks, rainfall since May usually consisted of quick pop up showers evaporated by the hot summer sun.
Recent rain showers have helped, especially considering they either occurred overnight or the sun didn’t reappear quickly and evaporate the water, but the area is still considerably short of the normal amount of rainfall needed.
On July 25, United States Department of Agriculture designated an additional 14 counties in Indiana as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by extreme drought. That brought the total statewide to 64 counties. Kosciusko County was designated on July 12.
Tom Cleveland of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency office in Warsaw, said though rain showers had been scattered, pretty much the entire county has suffered equally. “The bottom muck type of land holds the moisture better, but the intense heat really affects the pollination (of crops),” he said. “It really hurts it (pollination).”
The sizzling daytime temperatures could be more bearable for crops if there was a good cool down in the evening. But for a several day stretch it stayed hot even overnight. This considerably reduced morning dews created and Cleveland noted plants will absorb that moisture.
Declaring the county a natural disaster area means qualified farm operators are eligible for low interest emergency loans from FSA. Farmers have eight months from the date of declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.
FSA takes into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. Other programs are offered by FSA to help farmers recover.
Changes in the disaster program should provide faster and more flexible assistance. A change in the rules governing designation of disaster areas will result in a reduction of processing time for most counties; the interest rate for emergency loans was lowered from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent; and a payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.
Cleveland encourages farmers seeking loans to keep good records. “Until they get into the harvest, they won’t know where they stand,” he said. “Once harvest starts they will see the yield losses.”
County Government Perspective
Other than the burn ban, to this point Kosciusko County government has not issued other declarations related to drought conditions, noted Ed Rock, director of emergency management for the county.
Rock said if conditions would grow worse it is possible requests for assistance from the county could be submitted such as for establishing cooling shelters and others.
And, he added, unless county government declares a disaster due to the drought it has no authority with water related issues, such as requiring residents to conserve water. “DNR and also IDEM would normally deal with water issues,” he said.
Kosciusko County’s burn ban remains in effect until Tuesday, unless the commissioners would call a special meeting prior to that day.