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Missouri parks allowing harvesting of hay, water to help farmers deal with drought

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(The Center Square) – Missouri government agencies are allowing farmers to harvest hay and obtain water from state parks and conservation areas to deal with worsening drought conditions.

Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson issued an executive order on May 31 to activate the state’s Drought Assessment Committee. After last week’s meeting, the Department of Natural Resources directed boat ramps at 25 state parks to be open for farmers to collect water and allowed approximately 700 acres of hay to be harvested at 17 parks.

The Department of Conservation will allow water collection at 36 of the boat ramps and water access points. The Department of Transportation is offering special hauling permits allowing wider trailers for transporting hay at no charge to farmers.

“As drought conditions continue to deteriorate across Missouri, we want to do all we can to help our family farms mitigate the devastating effects of severe drought,” Parson said in a statement. “With the current water deficit, we know it will take a lot of rain for our state and its agricultural community to recover from the drought. While our prayers for rain continue, state government will do its part to assist wherever and whenever it can.”

All Missourians are being encouraged to assist local, state and national agencies in managing drought conditions by submitting precipitation information via the website, dnr.mo.gov/drought.

Farmers interested in obtaining hay from a state park must contact the superintendent. Hay areas will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis as licenses will be issued to cut the hay at no cost. State parks will allow hay to be harvested beginning June 25 and all hay must be removed before Sept. 25.

The Department of Agriculture is reminding livestock producers to be aware of potential scams involving hay sales. The department received reports from producers who pay for hay upfront through a wire transfer and never had hay delivered. The department stated fake accounts on social media can often appear realistic.

“We encourage livestock producers to use extra caution,” Chris Chinn, director of the Department of Agriculture, said in a statement. “The vast majority of sellers are legitimate and honest. These few bad actors are taking advantage of a serious situation and hay shortage.”

The Department of Agriculture and the Missouri University Extension publish online directories of hay sellers for livestock producers.

Water can be accessed from state park and conservation department access points during normal operational hours. The Department of Conservation is requiring farmers contact area managers before collecting water. Farmers must provide their own pumping and hauling equipment. Water is available for livestock needs and is not for resale.

“These drought relief opportunities for Missouri landowners are proactive measures to help our state prepare for and respond to the effects of drought,” Dru Buntin, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor environmental impacts to public water supplies and plan for various drought scenarios to ensure we are prepared as conditions change.”

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