November 27, 2014

Farmers helping farmers in drought

The drought affects different farmers differently.

Cash grain farmers are concerned about whether they’ll have the crops to meet various contract obligations. Livestock farmers are concerned about feeding their animals — now and in the future. And Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Jeff Lyon says dairy farmers have even more concerns. “If you’re milking cows, that extreme heat for long periods of time can really drop production.”

Some parts of the state have greener pasture, so to speak. Lyon says that’s where “Farmer-to-Farmer” comes in to play. The UW-Extension had put together a website with the goal of bringing Wisconsin farmers together for the purpose of buying and/or selling corn and forage. “It’s an online site where farmers that might have extra feed … they can put it online and say ‘hey, I’ve got hay for sale’ … and try to hook up the farmer who needs the feed. Farmers, likewise, who are in need can get their names on there, too.”

Governor Scott Walker is encouraging farmers that are less affected by the dry conditions to replant crops and make them available for feed by posting on the UW-Extension website. After harvesting their crops, Wisconsin vegetable growers could choose to cultivate forage crops rather than their usual cover crop to prevent soil erosion. Farmers elsewhere in the state could benefit from that forage.

Also, farmers can get permits to irrigate water from lakes and streams. Last week the federal government declared 23 Wisconsin counties a natural disaster area, opening the door for farmers to get low-interest emergency loans.

Agriculture has an annual $59 billion economic impact in Wisconsin, and accounts for 354,000 jobs.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:00