Gov. Walker Declares State of Emergency for Drought Conditions
Farmers can receive expedited permits to use streams and lakes for irrigation.
It might not come as a surprise, but 42 counties in Wisconsin are officially considered in drought, including Ozaukee, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties.
Gov. Scott Walker declared Monday a state of emergency because of the dry conditions. The declaration allows for expedited permits for farmers to temporarily use stream or lake water for irrigation, according to a news release.
The lakes and streams must be inspected within 72 hours of the request to ensure that fish and aquatic life will not be harmed by the diversion, the release states. Farmers are encouraged to report crop conditions to the U.S. Farm Service Agency office.
"The lack of rainfall since May in the southern half of the state has hit hard in a crucial part of the growing season," Walker said. "Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service reports this week that most of the land in these counties is short or very short of soil moisture, and this week's U.S. Drought Monitor for the first time reported the southern tiers of Wisconsin counties to be in drought.”
Locally, the dry condition has impacted local farmers. A handful of vendors attending the Waukesha Farmers’ Market didn’t come to the market last Saturday because of a lack of produce, according to John Ward with the Waukesha Business Improvement District. It was the first time that occurred this year.
“It hasn’t been too bad yet, but we will see as it keeps going,” Ward said.
The farmers’ market has about doubled in size since last year, which means there were still many vendors last Saturday. The ones that stayed home on Saturday will be back depending on the weather conditions; others are coming back no matter what, according to Ward.
Agriculture accounts for $59 billion to the state’s economy and 354,000 jobs, Walker said in the release.
“It's a vital sector of our economy that we need to protect," Walker said.
Also from the release:
Farmers can also turn to the Wisconsin Farm Center, housed in the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The Farm Center staff can provide referrals and information about available services, including such things as finding feed, financial planning assistance, and mediation between farmers and creditors. Farmers can call the center toll-free at 1-800-942-2474, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The center is staffed 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.