Oklahoma Emergency Drought Relief Fund Helping Farmers and RanchersMon, 07 Apr 2014 15:05:35 CDT
Farmers and ranchers in five Oklahoma counties are putting practices on the ground to help provide water for livestock and repair pastures damaged by the ongoing drought thanks to cost share dollars provided through the Oklahoma Emergency Drought Cost Share Program according to Kim Farber, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).
"We're glad these dollars are out in the hands of agriculture producers and that they're able to get them on the ground to address this crisis," Farber said. "The drought is slowly tightening its grip across Oklahoma, but parts of Southwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle never escaped the grasp that it held on all of us a year ago. We just hope that the dollars producers are using now can help alleviate some of the damage that has taken place."
Created by the Legislature in the spring of 2013, the Oklahoma Emergency Drought Relief Fund provides funding for drought relief in the form of cost-share dollars for farmers, ranchers, and other landowners and grants and loans to communities, rural water districts, and fire departments.
The fund is administered by the Emergency Drought Commission consisting of the Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, and the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. These individuals are charged with making recommendations to the Governor for expenditures from the Emergency Drought Relief Fund and to serve as a drought advisory panel for the Governor and the various state agencies while the drought emergency exists.
In October 2013, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a drought emergency and called for action to address the crisis caused by dry conditions in Jackson, Tillman, Greer, and Harmon Counties in Southwest Oklahoma and Texas County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. At that time, a total of $3 million was available in the fund, $375,000 of which was earmarked to help agriculture in the stricken area through the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's Emergency Drought Cost-Share Program. These funds were then sent out to local conservation districts based on their determination of the best use for them in their local areas.
"Local people know far better what they need locally then we do at the State level," Thralls said. "That's why we asked the conservation districts in these drought stricken areas to set the priorities for these dollars and to work with local producers to get the resources on the ground. It's a locally-led process that insures the specific needs of the area are addressed."
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