SPARKS: DROUGHT MORE THAN 'ROUGH PATCH' OR 'BAD YEAR'
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Commissioner Ron Sparks expresses his increasing concern as Alabama continues to experience one of the most severe droughts in the United States this year.
Between April 1 and June 1, most of Alabama has only received 2-4 inches of rain. The US Drought Monitor has now raised the drought rating of a substantial part of Alabama to level four, or "exceptional."
With ponds drying up and virtually no grass or hay, many farmers have had to make harsh decisions. Sparks hopes that the Department of Agriculture & Industries will be able to find some solutions to help farmers.
"We have to keep trying to help our farmers get through this," said Sparks. "This is much more than a rough patch or even a bad year. We have farmers in Alabama who have had to sell their brood cows for slaughter because they can't feed them. When farmers are forced to sell their mama cows, it is like they are selling the family business. That should not be the only answer."
For example, in the second half of 2006 farmers began selling off more of their cows because of drought conditions. From July 2006 through May 2007, about 25,000 more cattle were sold for slaughter and 2,000 pair cattle were sold compared to the previous year.
Sparks says that the Department is working on several alternatives to help farmers save their livelihood.
The Department of Agriculture and Industries and Alabama Farmers Federation have joined forces to help find hay for drought-stricken farmers in Alabama. A listing of available hay is listed on the Federation Web site, www.AlfaFarmers.org.
Farmers interested in listing hay for sale on the Web site may contact Mike Shewbart with the Department of Agriculture at (256) 246-1543 or Federation Hay and Forage Director Perry Mobley at (334) 613-4221.
Sparks is also asking the USDA to get Conservation Reserve Program land (CRP) released for grazing and that insurance companies release destroyed corn to be used for feed.