Plenty of help for Nebraska farmers and ranchers affected by drought, wildfire

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Even with the rain we’ve received over the past few weeks, there are still portions of the state in severe drought.

That’s causing challenges for our farmers and ranchers.

“If you look at the drought monitor, we are still very dry. The rains have helped us, but the things we are seeing out there is we have the lowest hay supply in about 50 years,” said Randy Saner, a beef educator with Nebraska Extension.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says grazing season in Nebraska is between May 1 and Oct. 15.  If the drought reaches level D3 during that time, farmers can automatically qualify for payment through certain programs.

“The first program we are going to look at is the livestock forage program,” said Pat Lechner of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Nebraska. “This program provides financial assistance to livestock producers who are suffering a grazing loss due to an eligible drought condition.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, also part of the USDA, has fire assistance available.

“We keep some money back from our EQIP program every year for disaster,” said Brach Johnson, outreach coordinator of the NRCS in Nebraska. “We were able to take some of those funds, and we started a sign-up for the Road 739 wildfire assistance initiative. Certainly, there are other counties involved in this, but Phelps, Gosper, Frontier, Furnas County, Red Willow, if you have had either cropland or range or pastureland impacted by wildfire, I would just contact your local NRCS office to see if there is some assistance they can give you.”

Assistance with long-term resiliency to drought, including changes to watering practices, is also available.

“Certainly, saving the water is our No. 1 goal,” Johnson said.

You might receive help changing your irrigation system.

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

Assistance programs can be complex, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out to your county Farm Service Agency office, which can help you navigate through requirement, deadlines and answer specific questions.

For more webinars, check out Center for Agricultural Profitability.

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