OACD Director Proud of Oklahoma's Water Quality Progress, Concerned for the FutureTue, 25 Mar 2014 15:46:36 CDT
Following yesterday’s announcement at the state capitol highlighting Oklahoma’s position as a continued leader in water pollution reduction, Clay Pope, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays. They talked about the state’s progress in reducing agricultural nutrient runoff and what the OACD is focusing on during the last half of the state legislative session.
“This is the fifth year in a row we’ve been in the top ten among all states in reduction of nutrients and non-point-source pollution,” Pope said. “ We were hoping that for the third year in a row we’d be number one, but were number two in the nation.”
That’s nothing to sneeze at, he said, because Oklahoma was number one in the reduction of phosphorous from its water and it did it with a much smaller appropriation of taxpayer money. He said he believes Virginia moved ahead of Oklahoma for the top spot mainly due to the number of federal dollars being spent currently to clean up Chesapeake Bay. He credited the voluntary conservation programs in Oklahoma that get tremendous support and participation from landowners with Oklahoma’s perennial appearance among the top five states for water pollution reduction.
“I think it shows what can happen when you have an approach like we have in Oklahoma. We’re one of the top five states, again, for the fifth year in a row and we’ve done it not through regulation, but through voluntary action… The people who should really be proud and who really deserve the credit are the farmers and ranchers of Oklahoma and the other landowners that are willing to do things on their land, again, through voluntary programs not through regulations-nobody’s forcing them to do it. Working together cooperatively, we’re making great strides in addressing non-point-source pollution and doing it in a way that makes long-term economic sense for the producer.”
Economics, obviously, play a major role in moving conservation efforts forward, Pope said, and there is a great deal of concern over this year’s tight state budget which could impact conservation programs in the areas of water quality and soil erosion by wind and water.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the tools out there to help producers take advantage of the programs, to provide them technical assistance, to help make sure they get the best information possible and can utilize the programs both on the state and federal level. That’s a major concern… We want to make sure our producers, if this drought goes ahead, redevelops, becomes as deep and as hard as some of us are afraid it could in this late spring and summer, we want to make sure we’ve got those resources out there.”
He said he is also concerned that lawmakers will appropriate sufficient funding for a soil-health initiative undertaken by the USDA and to be able to capture flood-control structure funding appropriated on the federal level in the new farm bill.
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