Following the third meeting of the Oklahoma Emergency Drought Commission, KC Sheperd, Farm Director, had the chance to visit with the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Trey Lam, about important points from the meeting as producers wait to receive drought aid.
“The Emergency Drought Commission today made the decision and took action to fund cover crops that have been planted since June the 11th as erosion control,” Lam said. “The idea there is if we leave the ground bare, and with the wind we have had recently, we have seen dust storms similar to what we might have had during the dust bowl.”
To receive aid for the planting of these cover crops, Lam said producers can go to their conservation district and fill out an application.
Lam also talked about the decision to extend the application deadline across the state until the 28th of November.
“That will give people a little more time that didn’t apply, or that thought maybe they weren’t eligible to get in and apply,” Lam said.
One of Lam’s main concerns, he said, is to take the time to evaluate each application and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately to create a lasting effect.
Regarding concerns from producers about the length of time that these processes take, Lam said that considering the short amount of time the Emergency Drought Commission has been working, they have been able to accomplish a lot so far, and the processes are quite lengthy.
“To be able to meet as a drought commission, move those funds over, then notify our conservation district boards, they then have to meet, and then they have to set dates when they are going to take applications, we have to have an application available for producers to come in and fill out, and then we have to have a closing date, then we have to rank those applications because we don’t have enough money to give everybody everything they want,” Lam said. “There has to be some way to set priorities in every county.”
In some counties, Lam said there are up to 190 applications. There are not enough funds to aid that many people in one county, Lam said, so there has to be a way to differentiate those applications and make sure it is appropriate for the county.
“What is appropriate in Cimarron County probably isn’t what is appropriate in McCurtain County to deal with the drought,” Lam said.
Conservation districts are now moving quickly through those applications, Lam said, and are ready to award the funds and help producers get some work done.
“We are here to help farmers and ranchers and the citizens of Oklahoma,” Lam said. “Especially in this emergency situation, we really appreciate what the legislature and the governor have done. We are ready to deliver this. We were founded as a result of the dust bowl, at the conservation commission. This is what we do; this is our bread and butter, so we need to deliver, and we need to deliver in a way that is responsible to the taxpayers of Oklahoma.