No drought declaration for southwest Georgia

It won’t come as a surprise to Georgia farmers that their state’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) won’t be issuing a drought declaration this year for the Lower Flint River Basin.

Rainfall has been plentiful in Georgia and other parts of the lower Southeast since last fall, when many farmers couldn’t complete harvest due to wet conditions.

Due to “sufficient rainfall this winter and the forecast for a wet spring,” Allen Barnes, director of the Georgia EPD “will not issue a severe drought declaration in southwest Georgia's lower Flint River Basin in accordance with the Flint River Drought Protection Act,” according to a statement from the agency.

By March 1 of each year, the EPD director, in consultation with the state climatologist and the state geologist, determines if a severe drought declaration should be issued for the lower Flint River Basin. “Current stream flows and groundwater levels are above normal and the 90-day precipitation outlook predicts higher than normal rainfall through May,” said EPD Director Barnes. “Conditions do not support a drought declaration.”

The Flint River Drought Protection Act was established to protect stream flow in the lower Flint River and its tributaries during a severe drought. Whenever the act has been enacted in the past, farmers in the Lower Flint River Basin of southwest Georgia were compensated by the state for not irrigating their crops.

According to the federal government U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions throughout Georgia, including the lower Flint River Basin, are currently normal due to plentiful rainfall.

This is the eighth year in a row that a severe drought declaration has not been necessary in the Lower Flint River Basin.

For the week ending March 14, excessive rainfall had increased wet field conditions in Georgia, according to the USDAs’ National Agricultural Statistics Service, Georgia Field Office. Soil moisture conditions in the state were rated at zero percent very short, 1 percent short, 38 percent adequate and 61 percent surplus.

Rainfall in March caused minor flooding and erosion concerns in parts of the state. Field work in preparation for planting spring crops was delayed by the wet conditions. Winter grazing continued to be limited and producers were still feeding supplements and hay to livestock.

Corn planting in Georgia was running well behind the five-year average in mid-March.

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