August 28, 2012

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A Well to Nowhere
Our state is experiencing one of the driest summers in recent history. Experts say the last droughts of this significance were in the 1930s and 1950s. Modern conveniences and safety nets, like crop insurance, have made this one much more bearable. However, for livestock farmers and those who live off the land, these are tough, tough times. Many dairy farmers have liquidated their herds. Absent of the weight of a single ear of corn, stalks are falling over. The days of saying “if it rained we would have a few beans” have now passed. Few farmers are harvesting what little is in the field, noting the results are worse than expected. These conditions spurred an executive order in the autumn of the drought, July 23, 2012. This order authorized the State Soil & Water Districts Commission to establish an emergency cost-sharing program to help Missouri famers drill or deepen water wells to benefit their livestock and crops. The emergency program promised 90 percent of the project costs with a maximum amount of $20,000. Missouri farmers would be responsible for the other 10 percent.

Unfortunately, all is not well that ends in a well. I have spoken to several farmers who fear the program made for great politics, but little real assistance. The program did not allow for the items necessary to make the well work properly. In fact, for one farmer, the well pump covered by the program was not big enough to get the job done. While it made sense to the well-wishing bureaucrats who established the program, the 90 percent cost-share did not cover the actual necessary expenses to have an operational well for this and other farmers in our state. The guidelines and deadlines made many aspects of the program nearly obsolete. I pray the results of this program are much better than what I am hearing from my constituents. Quickly, the funds for the well program will have dried up, too. While I am certain the Missouri farmers who did qualify and met the stringent time table for installation are pleased, my hunch is that most would have preferred a hand up, not a hand out. What many farmers received through this experience was the promise of a well to nowhere. A more expedient release of the Crop Reserve Program would have allowed farmers to graze or hay lands set aside for federal programs while the grasses had nutrients available for livestock. By the time the federal government released the lands, they were as burnt as our pastures and fields. The longer I have served as a representative of the people, the more I have learned that government programs — such as the executive order established in July — have very, very low success rates. Most folks want government to stand out of the way. And when government does help, it often has more negative consequences. Missourians always come through. With prayer, we will make it through this drought as well.

Senator Stouffer serves the counties of Carroll, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, Macon, Ray,

Saline, and a part of Clay.
If you have questions or comments about this or any other issue, please call toll free (866) 768-3987 or by e-mail at bstouffer@senate.mo.gov.
bstouffer@senate.mo.gov | www.senate.mo.gov/stouffer State Capitol, Room 332, Jefferson City, MO 65101 | (866) 768-3987

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