Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Daisy Lawler said Wednesday that Oklahoma ranchers have lost thousands of acres of pasture lands and stored bales of hay in the recent rash of wildfires that have swept across the state.
The loss leaves ranchers with an immediate need to buy hay and some are being asked to pay extremely high prices in their local markets, the Senator said.
Lawler was joined at a State Capitol news conference Wednesday morning by Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood and Stephens County Sheriff Jimmie Bruner.
The Comanche Democrat – a retired teacher and rancher in Stephens County – said ranchers seeking to buy hay can utilize the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture’s statewide Hay Directory to find the best available price.
“With both their pasture and their hay gone, these ranchers need feed for their cattle now and they can’t afford to pay inflated prices. The registry will help equalize the price and prevent excess pricing by those who are trying to take advantage of these devastating wildfires,” Lawler said.
The registry lists farmers and ranchers with hay for sale by region across the state. It provides contact information that allows ranchers in need of hay to find those with excess to sell.
The registry can be found on the internet at:
And http://wwwoda.state.ok.us/forms/mktdev/haydiroos.pdf (out-of-state).
Ranchers without internet access can also find available hay by calling 1-800-580-6543.
Lawler said she is also concerned at the cost local communities are having to shoulder in fighting the fires.
“In my district, for example, 21 different fire departments joined the volunteer firefighters from Velma in battling a blaze that burned nearly 10,000 acres. The fuel bill at the local gas station was more than $2,000,” Lawler said. “That’s a huge burden for a small town fire department.”
Lawler said she had contacted the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management seeking aid for communities like Velma.
Other needs that have surfaced as a result of the wildfires include communications needs of smaller law enforcement and other emergency services agencies. Sheriff Bruner was on hand to discuss the communications difficulties experienced by local agencies fighting the fire near Velma.
The Senator said she hopes Homeland Security funds could be accessed to help smaller agencies with communications during an emergency and will work next session to make sure those on the front lines have the equipment they need when emergencies strike rural Oklahoma.