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Governor says he will seek aid for farmers affected by drought

By Dave Kolpack

Associated Press

OSLO, Minn. -- Farmers in drought stricken areas of northwestern Minnesota pleaded with Gov. Tim Pawlenty to help with disaster relief.

Pawlenty talked to farmers near Olso on Wednesday and toured areas that he said have suffered from severe drought. He said he hopes to have a federal disaster declaration in place in early August.

"It's a serious drought obviously, which is affecting a big chunk of Minnesota," Pawlenty said during a stop at the Chad Anvinson farm.

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Anvinson, 33, has been farming since 1989 and said this is the worst drought he's seen. He grows wheat, soybeans, dry beans and sugar beets.

"Last night, we had our first significant rain in a month and a half," Anvinson said. "It looks like it's too little, too late."

Pawlenty said the crops looked pale green or stunted. State Farm Service Agency Director John Monson, who took the tour with Pawlenty, said the worst part for farmers is having a marginal to poor crop.

"A real disaster isn't losing a whole crop, it's losing half a crop," Monson said, because it's easier to get disaster assistance when an entire crop is lost.

Pawlenty said the disaster declaration won't be enough because it only offers low interest loans. He said he and governors from North Dakota and South Dakota would ask Congress for more help.

"More and more states are going to be facing this challenge" as the drought expands, Pawlenty said.

The governor also announced that the State Drought Task Force would meet Aug. 1. The task force coordinates state and federal action and manages the state's drought response.

The National Drought Migration Center says northwestern, central and east-central Minnesota are experiencing severe drought, which means that crop or pasture losses are likely, water shortages might be common and water restrictions might be imposed.

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Kelly Erickson, a farmer nearby Kittson County, said this is the third straight year of poor conditions. His area suffered from flooding the previous two years.

"Up in our neighborhood, we've had bad year after bad year," Erickson said. "We were hoping this year would be a little bit different. But it's not to be."

Erickson said that 40,000 acres were not planted a year ago, and farmers were late in planting this year because of wet soil.

"Morale in our county is pretty dismal," Erickson said.

Erickson said the wheat crop already has been harvested.

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