Sen. Jeff Rabon on Tuesday called upon Congress to make available additional funding for emergency drought relief needed by Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns this week granted a request from Governor Brad Henry asking that a disaster designation be granted to all 77 counties. The disaster declaration makes Oklahoma farmers and producers eligible for low-interest loans through the USDA Farm Services Agency, but additional relief is needed to assist Oklahoma farmers through the state’s worst drought in decades, Rabon said.
“In prior years, Livestock Assistance Payments have been made available to producers,” said Rabon, D-Hugo. “Given that this drought is the worst Oklahoma has seen in many years, Congress needs to step forward to help secure the additional funding to assist farmers and ranchers, and authorize these payments.”
Rabon explained that drought conditions have an effect not only on crops produced, but also limit grazing lands for livestock.
“Current estimates suggest the Oklahoma wheat crop could be the smallest in 50 years,” Rabon said. “Additionally, grazing lands have been diminished forcing ranchers to purchase additional hay and feed in months they normally would not. Congress needs to be made aware of the severity of the conditions and provide the funding necessary to help our producers through this drought.”
Under the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003, Livestock Assistance Payments may be made available to producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought conditions. The amount of relief is contingent upon the number of livestock owned and is eligible to producers who have suffered a grazing production loss of 40 percent or greater.
Rabon urged members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation to demand that Livestock Assistance Payments be made available to Oklahoma producers.
“Our farmers and ranchers cannot afford any delay in making this assistance available,” Rabon said. “The expenses associated with replacing grazing loss with feed are overwhelming as increased demand for hay and feed has resulted in considerable increases in price. The Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003 was passed to provide relief in situations like this, and Livestock Assistance Payments are desperately needed now.”