Some farmers hoping for federal disaster declaration due to drought

MADISON — Farmers say they’re thankful lawmakers are standing up for the agricultural community during the “severe drought.” This, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker asked Thursday that 23 Wisconsin counties receive federal disaster declaration, and help from the federal government — on the same day it was announced Wisconsin’s drought level has been elevated to “severe drought,” the fourth level on a five-level scale.

Southeastern Wisconsin did receive some rainfall this week, albeit not enough to officially end this drought. However, Kenneth Kohlwey is working hard to make the most of it.

“The corn got green. It was so shriveled up yesterday. It was terrible. It seems like leaves are up and wanting to catch more rain,” Kohlwey said.

With a pasture full of dry hay and alfalfa, Kohlwey — a dairy farmer, isn’t getting what he needs from Mother Nature to grow the crops he needs to feed his cows and fuel his business.

“The hay is getting low. Another two weeks and we’ll have to start buying hay. I don’t know where to get it from — have to ship it in and transportation costs too. It’s a vicious cycle,” Kohlwey said.

Gov. Walker is trying to get help for farmers like Kohlwey, through a federal disaster designation. This would allow farmers to apply for emergency loans.

Meanwhile, other state leaders are wondering what else they can do on their end. Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald worries the extreme drought could prove catastrophic.

“I heard a figure the other day that 30 percent of all of the crops in Wisconsin are not insured, so if one of those dairy farmers falls into that category or somebody doing a cash crop, it might be far worse than we ever imagined,” Fitzgerald said.

Unfortunately, Kohlwey is one of those farmers without insurance. He may apply for an emergency loan if it’s an option, but without it, the future looks bleak. Kohlwey doesn’t have access to irrigation for his farm.

Gov. Walker has extended the drought emergency to cover all 72 Wisconsin counties, as of Wednesday, July 18th. That allows farmers to tap into water supplies without the hassle it would normally take to get through that process.

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