August 30, 2014

Heineman says the state stands ready to respond to drought (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says the state will respond as the drought drags on.

How worried is the governor about the drought?

“I’m very concerned,” Heineman responds. “We are dry and we are getting drier. It’s hot and it’s getting hotter.”

A map of the drought of 2012 closely resembles a map of the entire Corn Belt. Conditions continue to deteriorate. The latest United States Drought Monitor map indicates the drought covers all of Nebraska, with the exception of a small section in the southeastern part of the state. A few counties in the central portion of the state are suffering from extreme drought conditions.

Drought is taking a toll on crops and pasture land.

Heineman says the state will respond, both to provide what assistance it can to farmers.

“One thing I know for sure, our farmers and ranchers, they’ve dealt with this before. They are being very, very careful. They’ve done a good job, so far and if anybody can handle this in an appropriate way, I know they can,” according to Heineman.

How hard the drought has hit farmers depends. Nebraska irrigates more of its cropland than any other state and that land should produce a crop, which will benefit from a rise in corn and soybean prices. Farmers without irrigated land will harvest greatly reduced yields if they harvest anything at all.

Livestock producers face the loss of feedstock and the possibility of having to buy feed at increased prices. Pasture land is drying up. Not nearly enough hay is being baled.

Then, there is the threat of wildfires.

Wildfires around Lake McConaughy in Keith, Arthur and McPherson Counties scorched 50,000 acres after wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley burned around 100,000 acres. It didn’t take long for the volunteer fire departments in those areas to burn through their budgets.

The state responded with National Guard helicopters and Guard members. Federal firefighting teams helped extinguish the fires.

The state has tapped the Governor’s Emergency Fund to respond. Heineman says he will ask the legislature for a deficit appropriation if needed, adding that it wouldn’t surprise him if he had to ask for a deficit appropriation before the year is out.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:35]