Tue, 25 Oct 2022 10:07:19 CDT
As a farmer and rancher, I have firsthand knowledge of how devastating the current drought conditions have been for our state’s agriculture industry. This is one of the worst droughts we have seen over the last decade and the first time since March of 2013 that 100 percent of Oklahoma is in a drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor currently indicates the vast majority of the state is in a severe or extreme drought, with nearly 30 percent of our lands being classified in an exceptional drought, with the most devastating and critical conditions.
These statistics are staggering, and the impact of the drought is taking a terrible toll on farmers and ranchers. Many are having to sell part or all of their herd in order to keep their operations afloat. Producers simply can’t keep up with the rising cost of feed, water scarcity and other factors due to the drought that are making things particularly difficult.
The Emergency Drought Commission has held meetings to determine how to best distribute drought relief funds that were previously appropriated by the Legislature. Most recently, the commission approved $5 million to be directed to the cost-share program. Lawmakers appropriated $3 million during the 2022 session, and an additional $20 million in the recent special session, of which $8 million has been directed to various programs and projects. Applications are available in each conservation district, with each county receiving $103,000. Any remaining funds will be dispersed to areas with the greatest need.
The recent meeting of the commission brought about a few significant changes to the current program. The governor has approved the changes, including that the requirement for drought condition certification will be removed for individual properties. One of the most beneficial updates is that families who rely on any type of livestock for income will now be able to apply.
With these changes, the cost-share program will now be retroactively available for projects that started on or after June 11 of this year, including rural tap water projects and pond clean outs. The maximum payments for clean outs were increased to $2,500-$7,500, depending on the size of the pond. Other projects that may be eligible for assistance are water well drilling, pumping facilities, pipeline, pasture tap, watering facilities, heavy use area protection, cover crop planting, forage and biomass planting (excluding Bermuda grass).
The commission will continue to meet to disperse the remaining $15 million in funds and determine where they will provide the most relief. I encourage you to reach out to your conservation district for details on the application, and to inquire if you are eligible for any assistance.
Our district and the entire state are in my thoughts and prayers as we navigate the current and future effects of these drought conditions.
It is an honor to serve Senate District 19. Please feel free to reach out to me at 405-521-5630 or via email at Roland.Pederson@oksenate.gov