Our Opinion: State steps up assistance during drought

We commend Missouri officials for stepping up to mitigate the consequences of prolonged drought.

Those consequences are being experienced by farmers today, and will continue for grocery customers long after drought conditions end.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects food prices will increase 3-4 percent next year as a result of this summer’s prolonged drought.

In response, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday the state will contribute an additional $5 million to a cost-sharing program to provide water for crops and livestock.

The state Soil and Water Commission on Tuesday directed $2 million to enhance a cost-sharing program — from 75 to 90 percent — to drill new wells, deepen existing ones or expand irrigation systems.

Projects must help crops or livestock, and cannot harm the public water supply. Awards are capped at $20,000.

In the span of two days, the state received more than 600 applications and is busy processing and approving projects.

Drought conditions in Missouri are brutal. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than two-thirds of the state now are rated in the two most severe drought categories.

In addition, the high temperatures accompanying the lack of rainfall continue to take a toll.

Missouri has experienced 28 heat-related deaths and more than 900 heat-related emergency room visits.

Nixon on Thursday also announced $1.5 million left unspent for winter heating assistance would be diverted to cooling aid. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program now has $9.1 million for cooling costs.

Throughout Nixon’s administration, the state’s response to both emergencies and disasters — including the Joplin tornado — has been sensible and compassionate.

Credit the governor for his leadership during troubled times.

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