Gov. Henry announces federal aid for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers in 72 counties
CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
Gov. Brad Henry announced Wednesday (December 29) that federal aid is on the way to farmers and ranchers in 72 Oklahoma counties who suffered damages because of drought, extreme heat and high winds over a 12-month period beginning in November of 2009.
In a letter to the governor, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said loss assessments indicated there was sufficient damage to merit a primary disaster declaration in 58 counties. Under federal regulations, an additional 14 contiguous counties would qualify for aid as well.
In November, Gov. Henry requested an agricultural disaster declaration for all of the state’s 77 counties.
In that November 4 letter to Vilsack, Henry said extreme weather and drought conditions, including heat, dry weather, high winds, stressful moisture conditions and an extreme variance in rainfall conditions had caused serious damage and losses to Oklahoma’s agriculture and ranching industries. The letter noted that summer and fall crops, hay forages, livestock grazing lands, and alfalfa have been particularly hard-hit.
“Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers have endured a very difficult year,” Gov. Henry said in his earlier letter. “Extreme and unpredictable weather has taken its toll on Oklahoma’s crops. A federal disaster declaration won’t cover all the losses, but it will offer some relief to our state’s hardworking farmers and ranchers.”
In his letter, the governor asked that the feds authorize the Farm Service Agency to complete damage assessment reports on all Oklahoma counties. The period of extreme weather was from November 1, 2009 to October 31, 2010.
In announcing the final determination from the federal agency yesterday, the governor commented in a similar vein: “We had hoped to earn a statewide disaster declaration, but this designation will cover most of the hardest hit areas. Our farmers and ranchers endured some very tough weather over the last year and they need all the help they can get. This declaration won’t address all of their needs, but it is a step in the right direction.”
Oklahoma farmers and ranchers in the qualifying 72 counties are now eligible for low-interest loans to address losses caused by the extreme weather conditions.
The only counties that will not receive aid under the federal designation are Craig, Kay, Nowata, Ottawa and Washington counties. Federal authorities said losses in those counties did not meet the threshold necessary to earn a disaster declaration.