Emergency Drought Commission to Provide Drought Relief for Oklahoma's Farmers and RanchersTue, 13 Sep 2022 12:16:39 CDT
Radio Oklahoma News Network Director, Ken Johnson caught up with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, Blayne Arthur to talk about the executive order to deliver drought relief to farmers in western Oklahoma and other parts of the state impacted by the drought conditions.
“The Emergency Drought Commission existed in the statute,” Arthur said. “That was put in place by the legislature back in 2012 and during this legislative session in 2022, the Oklahoma legislature directed three million dollars to that Emergency Drought Commission fund, but the Emergency Drought Commission itself does not stand up and do their work unless the Governor of the state of Oklahoma declares that the commission can meet and act.”
Thanks to Governor Kevin Stitt’s executive order, Arthur said the Emergency Drought Commission can meet, and those dollars the legislature directed to the fund can be allocated out across the state of Oklahoma.
Steve Thompson with Oklahoma Farm Bureau is pleased to see the three million dollars earmarked earlier in the year being made available to the drought commission. Thompson believes that State Representative Carl Newton and Senator Darcy Jech deserve the most credit as they oversee the National Resources Subcommittee that is responsible for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and worked the most to ensure the full appropriations were included in the final budget.
Through this process, Arthur said she hopes to be able to look at some options that will provide long-term solutions for producers.
“My focus I think certainly will be on the water,” Arthur said. “That is what we have heard the most from especially our livestock producers, so looking at things like drilling wells, solar pumps for areas that need those, and we haven’t had as much wind which is very unusual so the wind is not turning- solar pumps can be a solution.”
With many producers in Oklahoma having to haul water to livestock, Arthur said she hopes to mitigate drought impacts into the future.
“The unique thing about the emergency drought commission is these are actually state dollars, so the Oklahoma state legislature directed the three million dollars to the drought commission here that are state dollars to be allocated,” Arthur said. “ This will be an addition to all the FSA (Farm Service Agency) programs that our producers can access through the Farm Service Agency, and certainly there are millions of dollars that are being allocated now here in Oklahoma because of the persistent drought, and I know a lot of our farmers and ranchers have utilized those LFP programs and others from the Farm Service Agency, so this is unique in that the Oklahoma state legislature and the Governor have directed state dollars to go out through the drought commission.”
The drought commission, Arthur said, is represented by three agencies. Arthur represents the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Trey Lam represents the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, and Julie Cunningham represents the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
“We are hopeful that we can put a meeting together next week,” Arthur said. “We know that the sooner we can get moving, the sooner we can get funds out to producers, which is what we want to do. We do have to follow all of the guidelines for the open meetings act because this is a formal commission, so we will find a date, then we have to post that to the public.”
The draft commission’s initial meeting, Arthur said, will be to hear from producers and producer groups about how the drought is most impacting them and what options the drought commission can look at to provide long-term solutions.
“We will prioritize what those needs are, the areas of the state that have been most impacted, and then take in applications,” Arthur said.
Click the LISTEN BAR below to hear more from Ag Secretary Blayne Arthur on the Emergency Drought Commission plan to aid producers impacted by drought.
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