Power Restoration

Mo. Co-ops Lead on Drought Relief

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: September 14th, 2012

Missouri’s electric cooperatives are taking a lead role in making a state-sponsored drought relief initiative pay off for the hard-pressed farmers and ranchers facing withering crops and stunted herds.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visits the headquarters of New-Mac Electric Cooperative to announce extension of a state drought relief deadline. (Photo By: AMEC)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visits the headquarters of New-Mac Electric Cooperative to announce extension of a state drought relief deadline. (Photo By: AMEC)

“The success we’ve seen in completing the high number of water projects has been possible only because of the team effort that has included the rural electric cooperatives,” said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

As part of the program, staking crews, engineers, warehouse personnel and line crews at several co-ops have made it a top priority to get power to new wells and pumps designed to help farmers and ranchers overcome  the effects of the drought.

Some even declined mutual aid requests following Hurricane Isaac, because all of their available personnel are committed to local drought emergency projects.

“We’ve got 26 people working on these projects, because of the tremendous needs farmers and ranchers on our lines have,” said Mitch McCumber, CEO of New-Mac Electric Cooperative.

More than 4,400 projects were completed, in progress, or scheduled to start construction by Sept. 10, when Nixon extended the original Sept. 30 deadline to Nov. 15.

“A drought is no different than a windstorm or ice storm because it affects our members. So when these projects got started, electric co-ops were quick to start getting the lines out there,” said Jim McCarty, director of communications and printing for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

“You can drill as many wells as you want, but if you can’t power them, they are not going to do anybody any good,” McCarty said. “We’re talking about a tremendous amount of work.”

The state aid was limited to farmers and ranchers who could demonstrate that the grants, averaging about $4,800 each, could mean the difference between crop failures and catastrophic livestock losses this year and a chance at recovery in the year ahead. Some $2 million was initially available, and an additional $5 million was added after 5,800 farmers and ranchers were approved for assistance.

McCumber of Neosho-based New-Mac has completed connections to 34 well and water projects since the program began and still has 23 others in the works.

“It’s been really, really dry here and a lot of these farmers are in a real bad way,” he said.

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