Ron Hays Talks Floods, 4-H and Youth with Oklahoma State Secretary of Agriculture Blayne ArthurFri, 14 Jun 2019 13:02:29 CDT
Now that flood waters across eastern Oklahoma have started to recede, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur and her staff have been touring the affected areas visiting with producers now in recovery mode and seeking assistance from state and federal leaders. Secretary Arthur sat down this week with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays to visit about the devastation she observed this week and to review a few of the goings on in recent days at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
While most people by now have probably seen photos and videos of the damage across the eastern half of the state since the flooding began, according to Arthur, those images do not do the actual damage justice when witnessing it in person.
“When you get out there in person and really see the effects of that water, not only what it’s done to destroy the crops they had planted – but then you start talking about the long-term plan to mitigate and address some of those issues… it’s very very challenging,” she said.
Arthur says significant erosion has occurred and massive amounts of sand have been left in the wake of receding floodwaters. What were once wheat fields, she says now look like little Saharas. Crop farmers have regrettably lost their crops and some have lost their equipment as well. Fortunately though for most livestock producers, there was enough warning to move out the majority of the animals in the area. Some extreme cases of quickly rising water resulted in livestock loss despite producers attempts to evacuate herds.
“Talking to those producers in person, seeing those challenges – certainly from a state perspective we feel our role is getting them connected with our federal partners and walking them through that process,” Arthur explained. “We’ve compiled and prioritized these discussions so we can relay that not only with our federal agencies, but also share that information with our congressional delegation so we can hopefully be an extended voice for our farmers and ranchers.”
As recovery efforts get underway, the Secretary remarked that the resources being made available through the Oklahoma Conservation Commission as well as the local NRCS offices will be heavily utilized in the process moving forward. According to her, strategies are already being formulated to mitigate the damage and jump start the recovery process for those victims impacted by these events.
As this situation develops, the Secretary has also been working diligently to promote other programs happening across the state. Notably, the CEO of Google recently visited Pryor, Okla. during which Google announced a $600 million investment for the development of the Mays County area. An additional $6 million was also contributed by the tech company through the National 4-H Council to benefit 4-H clubs across the state and to promote STEM programs within the organization.
“That’s become a very big part of our 4-H program and seeing Google having the ability to support those great efforts in Oklahoma and recognizing the importance of STEM – it’s kind of a red letter day to have that happen,” she said, remarking on her personal commitment and enthusiasm for youth development and how that fits into Governor Stitt’s plan to make Oklahoma a Top Ten State. “I think investing in our youth is one of the great ways we can do that in preparing them and giving them the tools and resources they need to be successful on the forefront of production agriculture. More and more technology is being integrated in that every single day.”
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