Associate Farm Editor, Reagan Calk, is talking with the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Trey Lam, about what the OCC has in store for 2023, including an update on emergency drought relief funds.
“We really have a lot of exciting projects and programs going on,” Lam said. “One of our main focus areas is soil health. We are building a team of consultants to go out and work with conservation districts and farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices on the ground around regenerative agriculture.”
The OCC has a pilot program in Lincoln County, Lam said, which is an unpaved roads program where experts help to consult with county commissioners and their foreman on how to maintain unpaved roads to reduce erosion. There may also be a grant program available to these counties, Lam said, to possibly implement one conservation project in their county.
Regarding the round of drought relief applications that were due the day after Thanksgiving, Lam said drought relief is what the OCC has been working on the most.
“There is 20 million dollars in the drought fund that has been allocated out to conservation districts across the state,” Lam said. “We had over 6,000 applicants apply and we were able to find over 2,000 of those and actually allocate that money to folks.”
So far, Lam said, over 800,000 dollars have been allocated for drought relief in the state since the application period that closed in November.
“We expect the pace of those payments to pick up,” Lam said. “There is probably still another 30 million dollars’ worth of need out there, and that is a gigantic number, but this drought has been so severe and so quick that livestock producers especially have really been suffering.”
There is still about 4 million dollars for the drought commission to consider, Lam said, and whether more funds are made available will be up to the legislature.
“I really think beyond saving the livestock producers this time, it is just going to be a longer-term approach that will allow them to weather the next drought better because we know the next drought is coming; it is just a matter of time,” Lam said.