Havre Daily News
The Hill County Commission will ask the governor to consider a drought declaration because of a poor hay crop and damage to rangeland, the commissioners decided Thursday.
If the governor thinks the request is well- founded, he will forward it to the Montana Department of Agriculture for an investigation, Mike Zook, Farm Service Agency director in Hill County, said today.
If a drought disaster is declared, area producers could qualify for low-interest loans and possibly other FSA programs. It also allows stockgrowers two years between selling stock and reinvesting without paying capital gains tax, Zook said.
Hill County Commission chair Kathy Bessette said she believes the county has gotten a drought declaration for the past five or six years.
”Statistics for the entire county show we are in a drought even though we had a good (winter wheat) crop and rain, but it was in June,“ Besette said.
The June rain was too much, too late for range grasses, Hill County Extension agent Joe Broesder said Thursday. He said he heard that some producers weren't able to cut hay this year.
Zook said hay producers reported up to a 50 percent loss, but numbers are anecdotal until an investigation is done.
If an investigation is done, it will be completed by the County Emergency Board, made up of U.S. Department of Agriculture officials in Hill County, Zook said. The board met last week at the request of the Rocky Boy tribal council, which requested a disaster assessment because of hail damage in July and August.
The board is still considering the request, and has added northern Hill County to the area being considered, Zook said.
”While we were putting those numbers together, it became apparent we had a loss on native range,“ Zook said.
If the designation is approved, farmers who show a drought loss to this year's harvest can qualify for loans of up to 80 percent of the loss showed. That applies to any type of crop, Zook said.