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Wisconsin leaders looking for solutions amidst “severe drought”

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MADISON -- The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows southern Wisconsin is now in an "extreme drought," as of Thursday, July 19th. Wisconsin is now in the fourth of five levels of drought declaration, moving up from the "severe drought" designation declared one week ago. This latest declaration has state leaders brainstorming ways they can help as Wisconsin farmers continue to worry about their desperately thirsty crops.

The counties included in the extreme drought designation include: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Jefferson and most of Dodge, Washington and Ozaukee Counties.

Gov. Scott Walker plans to tour drought-stricken parts of Wisconsin on Friday, July 20th.

Walker plans to meet with legislative leaders, agency officials and others about the drought during the tour in the southeast and southwest parts of the state.

"First and foremost, farmers in particular can tap into water supplies -- be it streams, ponds, lakes and others without the hassle. They can tap into it immediately, for those who have access to irrigation," Gov. Walker said.

Other leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller say they're pondering potential solutions and trying to come up with a plan.

"I'm not sure that there's anything that we can do that would do it, but boy, we need to look at what kind of assistance that we can give to farmers. That 's an important issue," Miller said.

Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the problem may be more extreme than we think.

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

Gov. Walker said the drought is not to the point where officials would identify whether there is additional state aid required.

"If that were the case, that's something that could possibly involve the Legislature," Gov. Walker said.

Gov. Walker said the state is currently making sure it is fully prepared to submit a request for emergency assistance from the federal government. At this point, Wisconsin has not been declared a disaster, but Gov. Walker said Wisconsin is on the threshold.

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