John Hageman, Forum News Service
The federal government has denied North Dakota’s request for a disaster declaration for this year’s drought, Gov. Doug Burgum said Monday.
In a letter dated Saturday, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said “supplemental federal assistance under the Stafford Act is not appropriate for this event” and noted drought relief is available through other programs.
Burgum said state officials knew their request was a “long shot,” given the history of similar requests and the demands placed on federal resources by recent hurricanes and wildfires. He made his request for a presidential major disaster declaration two months ago.
“We appreciate FEMA’s consideration of our request,” Burgum said in a statement. “In addition to the many actions taken by the state to help livestock producers, we felt they also deserved an attempt to seek federal disaster assistance, and as a state we will continue to do everything in our power to help them recover.”
The governor’s request sought to activate the Individual Assistance program and make Direct Federal Assistance available. He also asked for additional federal staff to help those affected by the drought.
North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne was disappointed by the announcement.
“There’s a number of people who have a great need for some help,” he said. “I was hoping it could happen. It seemed logical to me that this is a time when the government should play a role.”
Although rainfall has since alleviated the situation, as much as 45.6 percent of the state was in an extreme or exceptional drought in late July, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Some said it was one of the worst droughts in North Dakota’s recent history.
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring previously predicted the drought would have a $4 billion to $5 billion overall economic impact on the state.
During his visit to North Dakota last month, President Donald Trump nodded to what he called a “devastating drought” but didn’t mention the governor’s pending request.
“We are with you 100 percent,” Trump said during his speech at a Mandan refinery.