Submitted by Tim Baker, Extension Professional and Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

On July 18, Governor Mike Parson asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to activate the Drought Assessment Committee. This committee consists of state and federal partner agencies, as well as the University of Missouri. Governor Parson also issued an Executive Order at that time declaring a drought alert for 47 Missouri counties.
The committee has met twice, on July 26 and August 8. If you want more details, I have a link to the committee’s web page on my drought resources web page:
I also have a link on my web page to an extended version of this column, to fill you in on the many good efforts that the organizations that comprise the committee are doing to help Missouri residents.
The organizations comprising the committee give reports at each meeting on the efforts they are taking to mitigate the effects of the drought on Missouri residents. Before I go further, let me mention that these responses are based on the Drought Monitor. For example, when an area goes from one drought stage to a higher level, a practice (such as haying CRP ground for livestock) may begin to be allowed.
This is where your input is requested. The Drought Monitor is put together each week by the National Drought Mitigation Center. They take into account many factors when creating the maps, and assigning drought stages. The more information they have, the better. Your written comments and especially photos are needed. I have been making comments and taking photos for some time now, and I would encourage you to do the same. These help them justify the stages of drought that they assign. This also helps the agencies that I will describe decide on the responses that they will offer, and those comments and photos are especially helpful when disaster declarations are made. There is a link on my web page where you can send your comments and photos.
In the extended version of this column, I have details on the responses and programs that many agencies are creating for the drought, such as some lakes in conservation areas and state parks being opened for livestock producers to obtain water. Check with your local authorities to see what options there are in your area.
The question came up in the second meeting about federal drought designations. This is something that the Secretary of Agriculture can do. As far as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), they are not set up to cover drought as a disaster. FEMA goes for one time events (earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, etc.). This is a Presidential Declaration. Since a drought does not fit into this category, they can’t do anything. In 2012, it was a declaration by the Secretary of Agriculture that declared our drought as a disaster.
Of course, those of us with University of Missouri Extension are still very involved with helping farmers with drought concerns. We have been holding several drought meetings, and our lab in Columbia is testing for livestock water quality and livestock feed testing (nitrates, etc.). In addition, many of us can give qualitative (not quantitative) tests for nitrates here in our local offices.