A group of rural state legislators is urging Governor Keating and the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation to take swift action to investigate Oklahoma's omission from a critical federal crop insurance program.
"Our farmers have been left out in the cold on this deal," said Senator Paul Muegge, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. "Unless the Governor and the congressional delegation move quickly, Oklahoma farmers are going to be in a world of hurt, and we can't afford that, especially after this year's drought."
The Tonkawa legislator was referring to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recent decision to exclude Oklahoma from a new crop insurance program. Crop Revenue Coverage is designed to guarantee farmers a certain revenue in the event of falling prices or natural disaster.
The USDA Risk Management Agency board recently approved a program eligibility list that includes a number of farm states, but not Oklahoma.
In a letter to Governor Keating and the Oklahoma congressional delegation, Senator Muegge, Senator Don Williams of Balko, Senator Ed Long of Enid and Senator Bruce Price of Hinton urged immediate action to make Oklahoma eligible for the new crop insurance program.
"If we don't get this corrected and corrected quickly, our farmers are going to be forced to plant and harvest on a wing and a prayer. That's no way to run a farm or any business for that matter," said Senator Long.
Federal officials have yet to explain why Oklahoma was not included in the crop insurance eligibility list.
"We want some answers and we want them fast. I can't think of any legitimate reason for excluding Oklahoma farmers from a program that covers all of the other major wheat-producing states," said Senator Don Williams.
The rural legislators have asked Governor Keating and the Oklahoma congressional delegation to take immediate action to resolve the problem.
"We wanted to make them aware of this situation so they could get to work on it immediately. They need to put their contacts in Washington DC to work for Oklahoma farmers before its too late," said Senator Price.
The legislators are confident Oklahoma will ultimately be included in the program, but they stressed it will take a concerted effort on the part of Oklahoma's state and federal officials to accomplish the goal.
"This isn't something that can be put on the back burner. Our farmers shouldn't be asked to risk their families and futures without insurance to fall back on," said Senator Muegge.
"It's like walking a tight rope without a safety net."