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Agricultural News

Emergency Drought Commission Approves Three Million Dollar Cost Share Program to Push Back Against Drought

Sat, 01 Oct 2022 15:07:04 CDT

Emergency Drought Commission Approves Three Million Dollar Cost Share Program to Push Back Against Drought Drought relief is one step closer to being on its way to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers following the second meeting of the Emergency Drought Commission. Commissioners Blayne Arthur, Julie Cunningham and Trey Lam met Friday, September 30, 2022, and unanimously approved a program proposed by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission which will distribute the $3 million appropriated by the State Legislature and approved by Governor Stitt in House Bill 2959 to Oklahoma ag producers.

After the meeting, Ron Hays, Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, caught up with Ag Secretary Blayne Arthur- “I think certainly a longer meeting, but also lots of good discussion,” Arthur said.

The Emergency Drought Commission, Arthur said, values public input from producers and producer groups. While there is not enough money to stretch as far as everyone would like, Arthur said the commission is putting thoughtful consideration into how to address the needs of ag producers and provide them long-term benefits.

“Today, our focus was on several of those items listed from proposal from the conservation commission and lots of things specific to water,” Arthur said. “We will, I anticipate very soon, have another meeting to address a focus on the transport of hay and feed, because we know that is a great need for producers as well, but I think lots of good points were brought up today regarding that proposal and we want to be very thoughtful in what we decide to do so it is the best for Oklahoma.”

Pending final approval by the OCC, scheduled to meet Monday, October 3, 2022, emergency drought cost-share funds will be made available to all 77 Oklahoma counties to be distributed by local conservation districts. Projects included in the program are water well drilling, pumping facilities, pipeline, pasture tap, watering facilities, heavy use protection, cover crop planting, forage and biomass planting (excluding Bermuda grass), and pond clean out(a point of emphasis in the discussion between the Commission and members of the Legislature present).

Arthur said the commission is appreciative of legislative members, and certainly the ag chairman and ag members that helped make everything happen at the capitol. More funds are on the way, she added. That's in reference to the legislature approving another $20 million on Thursday during the Special Session- that money will move to the Commission's banking account once that measure is signed by Governor Kevin Stitt.

“That certainly changes our conversation as an Emergency Drought Commission,” Arthur said. “We initially just had the three million, and now as we look toward that twenty million, I think also gives us an opportunity to deploy a lot of dollars, see what works, see what we can improve on, and do an even better job with those dollars as they come our way.”

One of the points of concern raised by lawmakers at the meeting as well as the Michael Kelsey with the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association is the statement by Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam that the rules that the Commission and Conservation Districts operate under would not allow any retroactive funding support of projects like pond clean out- and that projects could only be started until the the local Conservation District gives the go ahead- which would not be until mid November at the very earliest. Kelsey indicated to the Oklahoma Farm Report that he had urged Lam after the Commission meeting to ask the Conservation Commission to approve an Emergency Rule at their Monday meeting that would allow earlier work- if done correctly- to receive cost share funds.

As for a time line on having the chance to apply for and receive these cost share funds- Trey Lam tells the Oklahoma Farm Report that if the Conservation Commission does approve the request to operate this project from the Emergency Drought Comission- "the application period should begin around the second week in October and close around November first. Districts should meet, rank and fund the qualifying applications in early November. Hopefully work can start by mid November. All work should be authorized by first week of December for sure. Some districts will move more quickly."

The Drought Commission stipulated to the Conservation Commission that the cost share max per contract would be 80% with the maximum payment not to exceed $7,500 per project.    

It is urgent, Arthur said, that these resources are made available to Oklahoma ag producers quickly we continue to sink further into extreme and exceptional drought.

Arthur said she likes to remind people that it is important to support the small percentage of farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma and the United States because they are the food supply.
“As we help these producers, ultimately that increases our food security, and also access to food and fiber across the United States,” Arthur said.

Click the LISTEN BAR below to listen to Ron Hays and Ag Secretary Blayne Arthur talking highlights from the second Emergency Drought Commission meeting.



Ron Hays talks Commission strategy with Chairwoman Blayne Arthur
right-click to download mp3


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