Georgia farmers told to plan for rain

There will be no drought in southwest Georgia this year, at least according to state officials. The state's Environmental Production Division (EPD) has announced that a severe drought declaration in southwest Georgia's Lower Flint River Basin will not be necessary this year because wet weather this fall and winter has relieved drought conditions in the region. This means the state won't be paying farmers in the region not to irrigate this spring.

“We have consulted with experts from the U.S. Geological Survey, the state climatologist and the state geologist, and all the trends are pointing in the right direction,” says EPD Director Harold Reheis. “There will not be a drought auction in 2003, so farmers in the Flint River Basin should plan to proceed with their regular spring planting routines.”

The EPD director declared a severe drought in the Flint River Basin in 2001 and again in 2002, which activated the Flint River Drought Protection Act. The Act established a fund to compensate farmers in the Flint River Basin who voluntarily stop irrigating their crops with surface water during a severe drought year.

This past year's auction resulted in the removal of 41,145 acres from irrigation. The total amount paid to farmers was $5,257,859.76. The irrigation stoppage translated into a water savings of nearly 130 million gallons per day. In the past two years, Georgia farmers have been paid $9.8 million not to use the river water under the Flint River Drought Protection Act.

The agricultural drought that has gripped the region for several years officially ended this past fall, and it isn't expected to return anytime soon. Above-normal rainfall is expected in the state's Coastal Plain through winter and spring.

The Flint River Drought Protection Act was written to help insure the health of the river.

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