Governor declares drought emergency for entire state

Conditions remain abnormally dry despite storms
Governor declares drought emergency for entire state

Despite Wednesday’s thunderstorms, conditions in Wisconsin are still abnormally dry, and Gov. Scott Walker is declaring a state of emergency in all 72 counties.

The governor is planning to tour the worst-hit areas Friday.

Seventeen counties are in a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Its author expects conditions will only get worse.

Thirteen years ago, climatologist Mark Svoboda invented the Drought Monitor. When he releases the newest information Thursday morning, he predicts the drought will have increased in severity, rather than size.

At the Dane County Fair, news of David Schuster’s daughter’s prize-winning steer spread quickly. What’s happening outside, though, was dominating conversations.

“The first thing everybody talks about is just how dry it really is and how bad we need the rain,” said Schuster, who has been farming his whole life.

His own 100 cows aren’t producing as much milk, while the corn Schuster grows to feed them is nearly devastated.

“If you don’t have your feed, where are you going to get it? The prices are all going up big time, and it’s like your only options are to buy or sell something,” said Schuster.

This year’s drought puts Schuster in a tough spot. Svoboda said he is trying to help.

“We’re getting hundreds of requests right now to address the drought and the impacts on people; that’s the bad part,” said Svoboda, speaking via Skype from his University of Nebraska-Lincoln office.

Anyone can access the U.S. Drought Monitor map that’s updated weekly and ranks dryness based partly on data from 350 experts countrywide. Despite dozens of Wisconsin counties falling in the severe and moderate categories, Svoboda said he can’t classify this year’s drought — yet.

“It’s not like the multi-year drought of the ’50s that we saw, at least not at this point. You can’t really rank them until they’re over and, unfortunately, this one is far from being over,” Svoboda said.

As for Schuster, he said he’ll survive, but a little bit of help wouldn’t hurt.

“Any assistance from anywhere will be greatly appreciated, because it’s going to cost a lot of money to stay in farming, is what it boils down to,” said Schuster.

On Wednesday, officials and the state’s Emergency Board talked about applying to the federal government for drought assistance, as well as what options Wisconsin has to help farmers.  

To view the Drought Monitor, go to http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html

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