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Oklahoma Conservation Commission approves emergency drought relief program

A photo of Nick Brown's cattle ranch in Okmulgee County on September 30. This was the last source of water for the cattle herd on his ranch.
Nick Brown
A photo of Nick Brown's cattle ranch in Okmulgee County on September 30. This was the last source of water for the cattle herd on his ranch. Provided by Nick Brown.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission unanimously approved a $3 million cost-share program for farmers and ranchers.

The commission will allocate emergency drought funds to all 77 Oklahoma counties starting this week, it announced. Local conservation districts will then distribute those funds to farmers and ranchers through a cost-share agreement.

Gary Crawley, OCC’s Area 5 commissioner and livestock producer in Pittsburg County, said many ponds in his area are practically dried out because of the drought.

“I’ve got one place that is completely dry, there’s no grass, no nothing, it looks like a desert,” Crawley said. “Producers are feeling this throughout Oklahoma, and we are confident this program will help bring some short and long-term relief.”

Projects that qualify for drought relief funds include water well drilling, pumping facilities, pipeline, pasture tap, watering facilities, heavy use area protection, cover crop planting, forage and biomass planting (excluding Bermuda grass) and pond cleanout.

The OCC cost-share program is funded by the Oklahoma Emergency Drought Commission and will use some of the $3 million the state legislature allocated for drought relief during the 2022 regular legislative session.

“The emergency drought cost-share program will allow these funds to be distributed in a way that allows each district to use the funds to best address the needs of the farmers and ranchers in a local area,” said Blayne Arthur, state secretary of agriculture and chair of the Emergency Drought Commission.

In an announcement, the OCC detailed it will allocate approximately $33,000 to each county for local conservation districts to distribute. The maximum cost-share rate farmers and ranchers can apply for is 80%, with a maximum payment of $7,500.

Below are details from the OCC about the program’s timeline:

Conservation districts receive program guidelines and training Oct. 3-4, 2022 and then will begin implementation.

Overall Program Start Date – Oct. 3, 2022 (Guidelines approved at Commission meeting)

Allocation Period: Oct. 3 – Dec. 2, 2022

  • Certify drought conditions exist on individual properties – Review/Rank Applications – Select Applicants – 60 days
  • Establish Completion Deadline and Develop Extension Protocol

Implement Practices: Begins no later than Dec. 2, 2022. The program will be completed by Dec. 2, 2023.
Reallocate any remaining funds to districts with the highest demand: No later than Dec. 12, 2022

Farmers and ranchers can call or email their local conservation district to learn more information about the program.

Xcaret Nuñez covers agriculture and rural communities for KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.