The state’s largest farm organization is calling for federal disaster payments to assist livestock and crop producers through one of the worst droughts in North Dakota since the 1980s.

“There have been great efforts to get hay and forage into the hands of ranchers, but that won’t fix the financial disaster that is looming,” said North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne. “The federal government needs to step up.” Farmers Union is proposing direct payments to both livestock and crop producers affected by the drought.

In a letter sent last week to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the heads of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees, Farmers Union extended an invitation for them to see drought conditions firsthand in North Dakota. As of the end of July, 51 of the state’s 53 counties were in some form of drought with 15 counties incurring exceptional drought, the most intensive classification of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“Crop insurance is an excellent tool for farmers [to combat disaster],” stated Watne, “but when the disaster is this severe, it will not meet our needs. Producers are limited in what they can recover through crop insurance and there is no insurance program for livestock producers.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts less rainfall in North Dakota in August than the limited amount received in July. “If predictions hold true, crops that haven’t failed already will do so in August,” Watne said, “and our feed shortage will only get worse. It’s important that federal and congressional leaders come to North Dakota to grasp what conditions are really like on the ground, so they better understanding the critical needs.”