NEMO farmers receive much-needed rain; counties to the west among regions experiencing most severe drought conditions.

Northeast Missouri farmers and ranchers are looking to the skies with optimism amid a statewide drought that has impacted farms across the Show-Me State.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows almost all of Missouri is experiencing drought conditions, brought on by below-average rainfall since winter. In the northwestern part of the state, counties are experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions. Northeast Missouri is classified less severe by two rungs as “moderate.”

Rainfall over the weekend and throughout Monday offered visible benefits to some crops, said Palmyra area farmers and Marion County Soil and Water Commission member Kenny Lovelace. As he and his wife, Janet, returned from the State Fair in Sedalia, they encountered several showers on the way home.

This season, dry conditions have reduced pastures for livestock — causing some farmers to sell cattle or other livestock due to feed shortages — and hindered crop production. Missouri farmers have been faced with a shortage of hay, compounding the feed situation.

Lovelace said Livingston County was in dire need, and their classification was increased. He spoke with a farmer from that region who was shipping hay in all the way from Kentucky.

During each meeting he attends, Lovelace works with fellow Soil and Water Commissioners and members of other organizations to find ways to make things easier for farmers and ranchers. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT's) temporary changes for width restrictions and allowed times for hauling hay is easing the burden for some farmers.

“When I was going back to Sedalia, I met one on Interstate 70,” Lovelace said. “It was a big bale, two wide, and down the road they were going. It makes you feel good when you pass something and it does work.”

For farmers in Northeast Missouri, recent rains have helped increase the soil moisture levels that are critical for crop health. The United States Department of Agriculture ranked soil moisture levels as “short” or “very short” across four-fifths of Missouri.

Lovelace said he was excited to see more green in his hay, which he plans to bale up next week. He stressed that soybeans can continue to absorb rain, producing larger beans with more rainfall. “The rain we're having is sure helping, and it's making things a lot better,” he said.

Lovelace said local rainfall is also improving water quality, helping flush out algae and other materials from springs. If the rain continues, it could reflect a “turnaround” in Northeast Missouri as harvest season draws closer. He will be attending meetings Tuesday in Kirksville and Montgomery County — one of the regions hit hardest by the drought.

As Lovelace works with colleagues across the state, he remains hopeful as he looks ahead on his farm.

“It's looking better, and it feels so good out there this morning,” he said.

Trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com