Trey Lam Gives Overview of Drought Fund Allocation from Third Emergency Drought Commission Meeting

Tue, 18 Oct 2022 12:15:11 CDT

Trey Lam Gives Overview of Drought Fund Allocation from Third Emergency Drought Commission Meeting

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KC Sheperd, Farm Director, caught up with Trey Lam with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission at the third Emergency Drought Commission meeting and talked about his thoughts on the meeting.

“It was kind of the beginning of the next phase, which was how to utilize the 20 million dollars that the legislature procreated in their special session,” Lam said. “I think there were a lot of thoughtful comments, both from the public, from our legislators, and from the drought commission itself.”

Lam said there have been over 1300 applications for drought relief through the commission so far for pond cleanouts, water well drilling, and more.

“We know that we have a big demand out there,” Lam said. “We are infusing another five million dollars into that process so then we are going to see how those applications go, where the continual demand is, and come back in a week to two weeks and probably put some more money towards it and just try to continue to meet the need until we really met as much of the need as we can with the funds that we have.”

The drought commission, Lam said, is being careful to pay special attention to demand so funds are not committed prematurely. Some areas have been more interested than others, Lam said, such as Craig County in northeastern Oklahoma with 170 applications.

“One thing we have seen is a great deal of more interest from eastern Oklahoma and kind of that east central Oklahoma,” Lam said. “Because they have had drought before, but they also have had a significant amount of water resources. So, it has been rare that they have seen ponds dry out and wells dry out as they have in this drought.”

A big talking point during the meeting was the option to make the drought funds retroactive. Lam said while that is not something that is normally practiced, in the state of an emergency there are different rules.

“We really like to go out and inspect and see that there is an issue there, that there is a natural resource issue, whether it is water or brush or erosion, and then plan and implement practices, approve practices, let the producer go out and address those, whether themselves or through a contractor and then we reimburse them for the work once we see it is done correctly,” Lam said.

If the work has already been completed, Lam said it is difficult to be aware of the entire situation.

“What the drought commission decided today was, the drought began in this phase in June,” Lam said. “Some people have gone out and gone ahead and because their ponds were dry and cleaned them out. We are going to go out and look to be sure that there was water in that in years past and we can estimate the size of that pond and how much dirt was moved, and the drought commission really felt like that was necessary work.”

Lam said normally with applications, districts will decide which ones to prioritize and make their way down the list. Lam added that the more funds they have to work with, the further down the list they can move.

“In some districts, the money may be enough for all the applications they have,” Lam said. “Others, it may not make a dent in it.”

Hopefully, Lam said if more funds are available, some money can be redirected to counties that have more need than others.

Lam said it is important for producers to go to their local FSA office first, because a producer cannot receive money from the drought commission and the FSA for the same purpose. Specifically for hay transportation, which was a talking point at the meeting, producers can access support through the FSA.

“If they receive funding from them (the Emergency Drought Commission) and receive funding from the state, then the state funding has to be deducted from the federal funding,” Lam said. “So, they are not really gaining anything by applying for both pots. It can’t be an extra payment. We would encourage them first to go to the Farm Service Agency for those needs and also for their grazing loss.”

For grazing losses due to drought, Lam said the FSA is accepting applications from all livestock producers, not just cattle. The payment rate for drought is equal to 60% of the lessor of the monthly feed cost for all covered livestock or the normal carrying capacity of the eligible grazing land.

Click the LISTEN BAR below to listen to KC Sheperd and Trey Lam talking about highlights from the third Emergency Drought Commission meeting.



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