JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri farmers and ranchers will now have access to publicly available water and the ability to hay roughly 900 acres of the state property as drought conditions continue to put a strain on agriculturalists.

Gov. Mike Parson outlined the plan to address water and feed shortages of livestock operations across the state on Monday morning.

“We are here to help, is what our government role is. We can’t fix the rain, that is a little above all of our pay grades to make that happen,” said Parson.

Part of the plan is to allow ranchers to pump out of 32 state-owned lakes — 28 from the Department of Conservations and five from the Department of Natural Resources. Up to 5,000 gallons of water may be pumped daily, per family farm. Water is available for livestock needs only and not for resale. Farmers will need to provide their own pumping and hauling equipment.

The state will also open up roughly 900 acres of public land to be harvested for hay. Farmers wishing to cut the hay to feed cattle will enter a lottery system. The lottery for haying at Missouri State Parks opens Monday, August 20 and runs through Saturday, August 25. The Department of Natural Resources will announce lottery results on Monday, August 27.

“The announcement of our state parks providing access to water for livestock and the ability to hay our parks properties, adds to the opportunities that are available to citizens throughout this tough time,” said Carol Comer, director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Currently, 98 percent of the state has been affected by the drought and 86 counties are currently in a drought alert and 25 counties have been declared disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those at the drought update called the conditions “very serious” even after the rain some parts of Missouri has gotten in recent days.

“Farmers are really struggling with this drought. We have some farmers who are hauling in hay from other states while other farmers are culling their cattle herds. And some farmers are quite simply selling what they can to try and make the bills every month,” said Chris Chinn, the Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

“When our farmers hurt, our communities hurt too.”

Sean Cornelius, a dairy farmer from Hamilton, said the in his area of the state there has only been 3.2 inches of rain since May, roughly than half of which has been in recent days. He said the opening up public resources will be a huge help.

To pump water, farmers must contact the Department of Natural Resources at 573-751-4115, extension 3209. Most of the pumping locations are north of Interstate 70 in locations hit the hardest by the lack of rain.

Additional information, along with maps showing locations for the pumping of water and for haying, are available online at DNR and at https://mostateparks.com/.

“At the end of the day, we will prevail. Missouri has gone through difficult times before in agriculture before and we will go through it again,” said Parson. Though he did note, not all are going to make it successfully through the drought.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.