August 22, 2012 Edition

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Rickey Goff (right), retired executive director of the Lawrence County Farm Service Agency, and his son, Keith (left), review drought-assistance programs available to livestock producers with U.S. Representative Rick Crawford at a meeting on Monday. The meeting was held at the Goffs' residence in Smithville.
TD Photo ~ Shantelle Prater

Problems continue due to drought

Vivian Heyl
Staff Writer

Although the U.S. regions experiencing exceptional drought have decreased over the last few weeks, the land mass still included in the U.S. Drought Monitor map is larger than the state of California.

The states still listed with exceptional drought regions include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska.

Kansas and Arkansas are listed with the largest areas of drought stricken land with Kansas at 63 percent of the state's land mass and Arkansas at 53.6 percent.

During the month of August, Lawrence County received some light rain but precipitation totals were far less than average. The highest daily rainfall amount for the month so far was four-tenths of an inch occurring on Aug. 17 and 19. Northeast Arkansas normally receives an average of 2.9 inches during the month of August.

The continued drought is taking its toll on farming operations with livestock taking a major hit. First District Congressman Rick Crawford has pledged his willingness to do everything within his power to pass a five-year Farm Bill in an effort to help relieve the hardship that is currently being experienced by farm families.

For many farming operations the losses due to drought conditions may be insurmountable. Governor Mike Beebe announced a drought assistance program on Tuesday, which includes $2 million to help Arkansas ranchers recover losses.

The drought has also brought other dangers to the county including an increased fire hazard. A burn ban has been in effect since the beginning of July. Sparks from passing farm equipment or cigarette butts can ignite fields and yards, which are dry and highly flammable.

An added and unexpected hazard has been an increase in structural damage to roads, buildings and bridges.

Many homeowners are experiencing cracked foundations and basement walls because of shifting in the soil due to lack of moisture. As the soil dries and cracks it shifts putting additional stress on the foundation. Unfortunately many homeowners are discovering that their insurance does not cover this and they are facing expensive repairs.

This is also true of infrastructure such as roads and bridges. As the roadbed dries and begins to crumble the pavement lying above it begins to crack. The added maintenance is taxing municipalities already dealing with the drought as they manage their water supply lines.

James Houston, Hoxie water/wastewater superintendent, said that Hoxie has been experiencing water breaks throughout the city. The city experienced a break in a main supply line on Monday, which may have been caused by the loss of a firm soil bed.

It will be months before the full impact of the 2012 drought will be realized. The cost of the drought is estimated to be in the billions according to Bobby Coats, University of Arkansas Extension economist and professor.

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