Drought Leads State To Consider Disaster Declaration

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

It is, admittedly, an act of desperation.

"We're trying to save what we can," Eaton County farmer Jerry Wittman said.

Wittman is irrigating his part of his corn crop. It's the first time he's had to do it in his 11 years of farming in Brookfield Township.

"When it's this hot and sunny, it's almost like you haven't even done it," he said.

And the signs of stress are showing.

"The dead leaves, you should have none of this brown," Wittman said.

Even in his best field, the corn plants are about half as tall as they should be. So he's planning on getting about half the corn he'd normally expect in that field.

If the rain doesn't come soon, it'll be worse. And Wittman is not alone.

The head of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee in the Michigan Senate says farmers across the state are seeing crop losses of 50 to 70 percent.

But help could be on the way soon.

"We're laying the groundwork to help the farm community if we need to," said Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The state of Michigan is considering a disaster declaration. First, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have to collect information from counties. That data should be available to the state by the end of August.

"We'll be ready to move when the time is right," Boyd said.

The governor can ask the Secretary of Agriculture to declare a disaster in certain counties if the area shows a 30 percent or greater crop loss. Individual farmers hurt significantly can get help as well even if the area doesn't qualify.

But if what's happening on Wittman's farm is any indication, much of mid-Michigan should qualify for some financial assistance.

"It's probably the worst conditions I've ever seen," he said.

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