As Oklahoma struggles with one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, Sen. Ron Justice has filed legislation to provide the agriculture community with financial assistance in emergency drought conditions. Senate Bill 996, which was approved Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, would create the Emergency Drought Protection Special Fund.
“Our farmers and ranchers’ livelihoods depend on water. The current drought has forced these individuals to lose crops and livestock because they don’t have the water available to sustain them,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “In some situations, there are state and federal funds available to help these individuals but not in all cases and that’s why we want to create this special fund specifically for drought-related emergencies.”
The fund would be managed by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and will consist of certain funds appropriated to the commission. Monies from the fund could only be spent when the Governor declares a drought emergency to exist.
Monies would be used for drought response activities including, among others, pond clean out and construction, water conservation methods in production agriculture, providing water for livestock, rural fire suppression activities as directed by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, red cedar eradication, drought-related soil conservation practices, and any other drought response activities identified by the Governor.
All fund expenditures would be approved by the Commission with preference given to funding activities that do not receive other legislative appropriations.
SB 996 now goes before the full Senate.