Walker tours drought-ridden Southern Wis.

Farmers: Aid cannot come soon enough
Walker tours drought-ridden Southern Wis.

Gov. Scott Walker held a briefing on the state’s drought with Wisconsin emergency officials at the Department of Military Affairs Friday before a meeting to coordinate the disaster response.

Cabinet secretaries, lawmakers and stakeholders from farmers groups are all contributing to the effort.

The governor said declaring the state in a drought and asking the federal government for help are the first steps in providing aid.

Farmers said help cannot come soon enough.

Before the meeting, Walker toured parts of southern Wisconsin Friday to inspect the effect of the drought damage.

Scanning southern Wisconsin from Racine to Iowa county, Governor Walker touched down on farmland that was flattened and fried.

“We got an inch of rain, but the damaging winds laid the corn flat, and we’re not going to be able to harvest a lot of the corn,” said Kyle Levetzow, a Dodgeville farmer who hosted the governor on his farm.

Levetzow told Walker about the trials on his 1,000-acre farm where he runs 300 dairy cows. He said all parts of his operation are suffering.

“We’re way behind on hay production for the summer because of the lack of rain, which is our main source of feed for the milk cows,” Levetzow said. “Then couple that with the heat and the effect on the production of the cows, we’re down 10-15 percent (of) production from earlier this spring, and we won’t be recovering that anytime soon.”

To help farmers, Walker said, the state is considering opening up public lands or highway right-of-ways for harvest, making low-interest loans available to farmers or even looking to partners in Minnesota or Canada for available feed.

“We’re going to look at just about every option out there knowing that there’s no one thing that’s a magic cure-all,” Walker said. “The more options we give our farmers to react to this, the better off we can be.”

Levetzow estimated it will cost at least $1,000 a cow to buy feed for the winter, and he’s not sure if loans will help.

“Even if it’s zero percent interest, you have to be able to pay it back” Levetzow said.

At this rate, Levetzow said that could be tough.

“It’s a lot of emotional distress to see what we’re going to go through this winter,” Levetzow said.

Levetzow said he’s also concerned that measures wouldn’t help farmers like him, who run more cows and more property than some smaller producers.

The governor said he will be continuing to roll out efforts they believe to be helpful in the coming days and weeks.