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County farmers get funds for taps, hay

State officials granted more relief this week to drought-stricken southern Ohio farmers, but gave few details.

Sunday, September 26, 1999

State officials granted more relief this week to drought-stricken southern Ohio farmers, but gave few details.

County officials were notified Wednesday that the state will share costs of hay purchasing and transportation, and will assist farmers with tap fees for access to rural water systems, said Peggy Reynolds of Lawrence Soil and Water.

In a letter to county conservation officials, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said Gov. Bob Taft announced $4 million for the hay cost-share program and $1 million for tap assistance statewide.

"Funds will be distributed through (soil and water conservation districts) under guidelines being developed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and other agencies," wrote Lawrence G. Vance, chief of ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

"While this will require some effort on our part, I hope you share our desire to help livestock producers deal with a difficult situation," Vance wrote.

The new funding is being coordinated with USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program.

The state did not share other details, including how money would be divided among Ohio’s counties or if non-farm residents would qualify for tap assistance, but did promise more information within the next 10 days, Mrs. Reynolds said.

Commissioner Paul Herrell said financial assistance for any rural resident who wants a public water tap is a necessity and the state should allow at least some of the $5 million to be used for that, Herrell said.

"I think it’s for the ones who have livestock, but we won’t know for sure for a few days," he said.

The state money will help, but the county is still reeling from this year’s dry weather, Herrell said.

"This job is no way near over," he said.

The state funding also came as welcome news at the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency, which is continuing to work with township trustees on installing frost-free public taps to get residents without water through this winter.

It builds collaboration between all parties working on the emergency, EMA deputy director Mike Boster said.

"Every little bit we chip away at this, the better off we will be in the future," he said.

Meanwhile, the installation of the frost-free spigots relies on a state "imminent threat" grant for which public officials applied earlier this month, Boster said.

The spigots will be placed at public buildings where residents can bring their own containers to get drinking water.

The state has not commented either for or against the imminent threat grant, but a decision is expected soon, Boster said.

Trustees are still working on a system of staffing the public taps and the EMA will publicize pickup times after they are installed, he said.

Also on the drought front, Lawrence Soil and Water is working with 75 referrals for federal farm assistance, and expects more farmers to sign up, Mrs. Reynolds said.

Conservation officials are focusing on $89,000 in Farm Service Agency assistance given to Lawrence County for the following:

– Installing pipe to another source of water.

– Storage facilities like tanks and troughs above ground for livestock.

– Developing springs or seeps for livestock water.

Soil and water is providing technical assistance and asking landowners to be patient because of the heavy workload, Mrs. Reynolds said.