To listen to KC Sheperd and Blayne Arthur talking about the third Emergency Drought Meeting, click below.
At the third meeting of the Emergency Drought Commission on November 9, KC Sheperd, Farm Director, got the chance to visit with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, Blayne Arthur, about the biggest takeaways from the meeting.
“It was great to have the public input that we had today at the emergency drought commission meeting,” Arthur said.
At the meeting, Arthur said producers voiced their concerns and talked about how they have been impacted by the drought.
“I think the drought commission heard those challenges today and worked toward fixing some of those and hopefully can get more of these dollars out the door in a better fashion and do good things for the producers that need them,” Arthur said. “Certainly, we have heard this drought is ongoing, and the need is out there. We have had 8 million dollars that have already gone out the door, which I think gave us some time to see how the program was working, and what things might come up that we weren’t aware of.”
At the meeting, another 12 million dollars was appropriated for the drought commission to disperse.
The drought commission has a tough job, Arthur said, because while they want to distribute the funds quickly for farmers and ranchers, they also have to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent in an appropriate fashion.
“I don’t think we can get them out the door fast enough for many of our producers, so I think there was a real focus on that today, I have heard that certainly from legislators, and I know they will go to work to make that happen,” Arthur said.
Individuals who did not apply for initial funding in their district, or did not receive funding with their first application, Arthur said, will be eligible to receive funds from the additional 12 million dollars.
For those who already applied and did not receive funding the first time, Arthur said they will not be required to reapply to receive these funds. Clarification was provided to all districts that applications from all practices will be accepted, Arthur added.
“Some districts made the decisions locally to not take applications for certain practices based on their area, so we want all of those to be taken,” Arthur said.
There was also discussion on funding individuals who may have already self-funded a drought-related project or issue before the drought commission funds were available.
“Some producers who were proactive- we don’t want to discount them, so they can be part of this funding as well,” Arthur said.
A majority of the funding so far has been directed toward livestock producers because of the immediate need, Arthur said, but she is hopeful to address the needs of crop producers as well.
“We will still have some more meetings,” Arthur said. “There are 4.5 million dollars left right now in that emergency drought relief fund. We did set a date of November 28 for this next round of funding to be the deadline for applications to be taken, so I would anticipate we will have another drought commission meeting before the end of the year and listen again to public input, how we can do this better than before and look forward to getting those dollars out to all across the districts here in Oklahoma.”
As for the opportunity to serve Oklahoma for another four years as Secretary of Agriculture, Arthur said she is thankful for the opportunity.
“I certainly am very proud to be able to work here at the Department of Ag, Food, and Forestry and work with all of our staff and our team here, but ultimately represent farmers and ranchers here in Oklahoma,” Arthur said. “I don’t think there is any better job that anyone could have, so very pleased to have this opportunity to work in this capacity for Governor Stitt.