Gov. Kenneth Mapp and Agriculture Department officials are meeting with federal officials, distributing drought relief feed and seeking more sources of water for farmers, according to the administration.
On Monday, Mapp and Agriculture Commissioner Carlos Robles met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency District Director Mark Carlton, according to a statement from Government House. One of the objectives of the meeting was to address the prolonged drought in St. Croix and gather information on conditions locally to support a “Disaster Declaration due to Drought” through USDA Secretary Vilsack
“I want to insure that during these agricultural drought conditions farmers are receiving assistance,” Mapp said in the statement. “Agriculture and the ability for our agricultural industry to survive is a priority for the Mapp-Potter Administration.”
Robles said Agriculture is working on distributing feed and water.
“On St. Croix this past week we brought in our third trailer since June of 1,200 bags of drought feed and 6,000 gallons (of) molasses to help livestock farmers," Robles said, adding that water was available for an $80 trucking fee for 6,000 gallons. "Farmers are able to bring their own water containers to fill up at our stand pipe for free,” he said.
“We are aware that the water levels of our primary dam is running low and have been working on an alternate source," Robles said. “We are actively sourcing hay from private hay fields since our public hay fields have been exhausted and have already begun to source hay from vendors in Puerto Rico because, if the drought persists, we will exhaust our local private suppliers in short order and we are close to that scenario.”
On St. Thomas in the Dorothea farming community, Agriculture is bringing online 4,000 additional gallons of water, which Robles estimated should be complete within two weeks.
Robles said that in the Bordeaux agriculture community, Agriculture has shifted from a 12-hour on/off cycle to 24 hour pumping to the farmers market cistern and to the overflow water tanks to the east and west of the farmers market.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has been under extreme drought conditions for several months, to the point where farmers are losing livestock and the V.I. Department of Agriculture’s water storage is being drained. Year-to-date rainfall stands at barely half the normal amount, while the last two months are at 10 to 12 percent of normal and falling fast.
In the last two months, St. Thomas has received 1.38 inches of rain, almost five and a half inches less than normal, and St. Croix had 1.33 inches, almost four inches below normal, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. (See related Links Below)