Federal aid to water dry land

Sunday, July 20th 2008, 11:00 pm
By: News 9

By Jacqueline Sit, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - Federal aid has been approved for 14 counties in the Panhandle and Northwest suffering from the drought.

The drought has robbed Oklahoma farmers and ranchers of crops, cattle and cash. 

Boise City has long been an agricultural driven town, but with a mix of hot and dry temperatures and little rain, life has been hard.

"This year we had to sell almost a third of our herd so it's been kind of tough having to feed through the summer," said rancher Kenny Bob Tapp.

Governor Brad Henry visited this small town in the Panhandle earlier this week. Bone dry soil stretches for miles and miles and there is no sign of harvest.

"The family garden is very hard to keep water going to it, like if you were to take your blow dryer and blow dry your house plants," said rancher Mary Ruth Tapp.

The disaster is devastating enough that it has been compared to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

"You're at the mercy of the elements," said Mary Ruth Tapp.

State Agriculture Secretary spokesman Jack Carson said records show that some areas have never been this dry but the grass is greener east of the Panhandle counties.

"We're very fortunate compared to what they are in the Panhandle because it does get dry out here," said Eldon Merklin, a farmer and rancher in Woodward County. "Fortunately this year, we're not dry at all."

Ranchers and farmers in northwest Oklahoma weren't hit as hard, but they are still hurting.

"The biggest challenge would be not having enough for your livestock to eat, there's not enough return for your crops," said Woodward County rancher and farmer Duane Mote.

Lower wheat production and selling less livestock has had the biggest impact on bottom lines.

"There will be those who will have the attitude to sell out, there will be those who've made it before and we'll make it again," said Mote.

Henry's request for federal disaster aid is meant to help these third generation farmers and ranchers, but some said the money could be better spent.

"There's some further west of here that are in a disaster area," said Mote. "They probably need more than we do right here."

Federal disaster aid can provide low interest loans and tax breaks to those forced to sell livestock early due to the drought.