Lucas Uses Wildfire Backdrop to Highlight Importance of Disaster, Conservation Programs in Farm BillTue, 24 Apr 2018 12:30:27 CDT
On Monday, Oklahoma’s Third District Congressman Frank Lucas escorted USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey around northwest Oklahoma to tour the damage of recent wildfires and to meet the victims they have left behind. In an interview with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn, Lucas expressed how impressed he was by the coordinated efforts of local, state and federal fire management resources to contain the fires.
“When you look at what the volunteer and professional departments have done, you throw that in with the Oklahoma Forestry Services and all of our adjoining states and the federal forces together - it’s amazing,” he exclaimed. “Yes, we lost a third of a million acres in Oklahoma, but it would have been dramatically worse without their support.”
Lucas commended those involved who he says were faced with “the most unimaginable weather conditions” as they worked to keep fires from spreading and causing more damage than what was incurred. While his own home and his family’s homes escaped the danger, he says the flames were within miles of his residence and that of his mother’s nearby. But, unfortunately there were others not as fortunate.
“It’s hard to say enough about the brave people who go out there and fight the fires,” he remarked reverently, highlighting the need to replenish the ‘shoe-string budgets’ of our local fire departments. “I’m very proud of those folks and now we all need to financially support them as they work to put their equipment back together and get themselves ready for the next time.” (Click or tap here to access links to relief efforts currently being coordinated to donate to fire departments or here to donate or apply for assistance through the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation)
Lucas also thanked Northey for spending the day with him, meeting people who had experienced losses. He explained the importance of getting our ag leaders on-site to see firsthand the devastation and the needs of the people in order to return to Washington with an idea of how to go about addressing those needs - especially right now as progress is being made on the next Farm Bill which will outline the resources available to farmers and ranchers who suffer from disaster in the future. However, Lucas cautioned that farmers should never rely on the government to replace hard work, sound investment and support from the community - but still encouraged producers to contact their local FSA office and start documenting losses in order to take advantage of the programs that are readily available to them.
“There will always be challenges and surprises and there are programs to help you, but you’ve got to get all your facts together,” he said. “The federal government is never going to make you whole, but it’s going to help you get yourself back going.”
Lucas directs producers to enquire about the various disaster assistance and conservation programs now being activated in response to the wildfires, which Northey touched on during his visit, yesterday. In the meantime, he says he continues to work with leaders on the House Ag Committee to keep momentum behind the Farm Bill in hopes of its timely passage. Last week, House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway’s draft proposal of the 2018 Farm Bill made it through the markup process and out of committee. Lucas says he hopes to see the bill make it to the floor as soon as possible where he believes the real discussion and debate will take place on the major issues of concern. He remains optimistic that this next bill will in the end adequately address the needs and properly serve the American producer.
Click or tap the LISTEN BAR below to hear the full exchange between Lucas and Horn during yesterday’s tour of the fire damage.
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