Rock, Green, Dane and Walworth counties in southern Wisconsin are among 42 counties where Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency due to drought or abnormally dry conditions from a brutal heat wave and lack of rain.
It's the first time such a declaration has been made since 2009.
"The lack of rainfall since May in the southern half of the state has hit hard in a crucial part of the growing season," Walker said in a statement.
The declaration lasts for 60 days and allows faster issuance of permits for farmers to use stream or lake water for temporary irrigation. The state Department of Natural Resources must inspect the stream or lake within three days to make sure no fish or other aquatic life will be harmed.
The U.S. Drought Monitor listed all of 11 southern Wisconsin counties and portions of seven others as experiencing a moderate drought as of its latest map dated July 3. All or portions of 23 counties are listed as abnormally dry.
Moderate drought means some damage to crops and pastures has been reported and the risk for fires is high. It also means streams, reservoirs, or wells are low and some water shortages may be developing or are imminent.
Being abnormally dry means an area is experiencing short-term dry conditions that are slowing planting and the growth of crops or pastures. Fire risks are above average.
Walker encouraged farmers to report crop conditions to their local U.S. Farm Service Agency office. That information can be used for Walker to request a federal disaster declaration, which could make low-cost emergency loans and other assistance available.