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Henry to tour Panhandle drought area

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Associated Press Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Gov. Brad Henry is planning to tour drought-stricken areas of the Panhandle and adjacent northwestern Oklahoma counties.

"The situation is critical" for farmers and ranchers hardest hit by a lack of rainfall the past year, Henry said Monday.

The exact timing of the trip is still being worked out, but it won't be this week, a spokesman for the governor said.

Henry has requested federal disaster assistance for farmers in nine counties suffering from drought and extreme weather conditions.

Peach said the dry conditions would be as bad as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, if not for changes in farming practices in the area over five decades.

The agricultural official said he met with about 75 ranchers last week in Boise City and 75 percent of them reported having to sell their cattle early because of a lack of grazing forage.

"There is no forage; the grass is gone," in the area, Peach said.

He said the extremely dry conditions cover areas of northwest Oklahoma, southeast Kansas and parts of Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

The drought in northwest Oklahoma comes as other areas of the state have received abundant rainfall.

Peach said with 96 percent of the wheat crop harvested, it looks like the state will produce about 150 million bushels, compared with a crop of about 85 to 90 million bushels a year ago.

He said farmers getting a good wheat crop this year could be in trouble next year if they are not careful because of high prices for diesel fuel and fertilizer.

"The farmers are really going to be at risk," Peach said.

The nine counties included in the disaster request by Henry are Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woodward, Ellis, Roger Mills, Dewey and Woods counties.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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