County seeks disaster declaration for drought conditions
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
The Houston County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Nov. 23 authorized a letter to the governor requesting Houston County’s inclusion in a drought declaration that is expected to qualify area agriculture producers for USDA assistance. The action came after receipt of a letter signed by Darvin L. Collins, CED, FSA, chairperson of the Houston County Emergency Board. In his letter, Collins states, “According to the USDA Drought Monitor, Houston County continues and has experienced abnormally dry (D0) to (D1) moderate drought conditions since July 1 due to lack of rainfall.” Severe fall drought conditions resulted in grazing losses of mixed forages consisting of ryegrass and inter-seeded small grains of more than 70 percent, Collins stated. “Supplemental feeding above normal and delayed placement of stocker cattle has resulted due to drought conditions,” according to Collins. The loss assessment report submitted by Collins states that all of Houston County is affected, including 4,571 farms. Commissioner Willie Kitchen said, “I think this (declaration of a natural disaster area due to drought) will be very helpful.” Kitchen noted that some of the county’s ranchers have had to sell livestock due to lack of grazing. Commissioner Pat Perry said his ponds are lower than he has ever seen them. If Houston County is designated as a natural disaster area, the affected ranchers and farmers will be eligible for a variety of USDA programs to help cover part of their actual losses. In other business, the county commissioners approved an interlocal cooperation agree-ment to authorize Road and Bridge Precinct Two to assist with demolition work at the Austonio Fire Station. Austonio VFD has been approved for an Emergency Services District grant for the construction of a new fire station and training building, and demolition of the old building is almost complete. Kitchen explained he had been asked by the Austonio fire chief to help with some in-kind work. The task will involve providing a backhoe and dump trucks operated by Kitchen and/or employees to help with the removal of concrete and other debris. Kitchen estimated the job will take about half a day.