Freeman Pleads Case For Cimarron County Disaster to Gov. Henry, Cites Drought as Need

John H. Freeman, Cimarron County Commissioner, District #2 has written a letter to Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry asking that Henry recognize and declare Cimarron County a disaster area due to drought.
Ironicallly Henry has had his hands full down state with disasters brought on by massive flooding.

Along with his letter, Henry included a letter from the Cimarron County Conservation District.

Both letters are included below:

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Dear Governor Henry:

Although, I am very sympathetic for all persons in Oklahoma who have suffered from this year’s tornado damage, high winds, fires and floods, I would like to request that you consider Cimarron County as a disaster area and provide supplemental funds to assist area farmers and ranchers.

Many local farmers and ranchers in Cimarron County simply cannot afford to maintain their farming and ranching operations due to the extreme drought conditions, rising cost of fuel and fertilizer. In most areas of Cimarron County rain fall has been less than .08 inches since October of 2007. With the lack of moisture it is impossible for farmers to even start to plant crops and ranch lands are simply blowing away leaving no grass to feed cattle.

Ranchers have reduced their cattle herds by one-half or have completely sold all their cattle because there is not sufficient grass to feed the cattle. Ranchers cannot afford to purchase feed and there is no wheat land available to graze due to the severe drought.

Not only is this going to affect farmers and ranchers in Cimarron County but will have a huge impact on our local banks and small business owners.

I have enclosed a copy of a letter I received from Cimarron County Conservation District for your review.

I would appreciate your consideration in declaring Cimarron County a disaster area.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Signed

John Howard Freeman

Commissioner Cimarron County District 2

Dear Mr. Freeman:

The Cimarron County Conservation District would stress our concerns for Cimarron County farmers and ranchers due to drought; fuel, fertilizer and equipment costs; and forced herd reduction. We share our concerns and information received from those directly affected to implore you to join our efforts in the recognition of our county’s plight and to determine if any assistance can be made available for county producers affected.

Historically Cimarron County has been dependent upon winter snows to assist in filling soil moisture profiles and those were not seen this past winter. According to the Oklahoma Mesonet (www.mesonet.org), our area is experiencing a deficit of 8.21 inches. Wheat acres have received .81 inches of rainfall since October 2007. Much of the rangeland acres in the northern and western areas of the county have received less than .1 of an inch of moisture in over a year. Conditions in those areas are promoting erosion from wind for the first time in years. Few dryland wheat acres will be harvested this year and little to no acres are available for grazing.

The following are statements from only a few of the affected farms and ranches:

Cimarron County producer Gary Spielman traditionally plants corn under irrigation however, he will not plant corn due to lack of supplemental moisture, fertilizer and seed costs.

Dryland farmer for over 40 years, Charles Tapp states “This is the first year since I’ve been farming that I have been unable to prepare my land by May 15 for milo planting.” Mr. Tapp has received less than an inch of combined snow and rainfall since October 2007. Mr. Tapp sums up the frustration suffered by producers,” Farmers are discussing what we can do if rains do not come. People (outside Cimarron County) need to understand that differences in soils and/or climate changes (moisture or no moisture), as close as a neighboring fence line, affect planting and harvesting success here in Cimarron County.”

Eugene Boyd, an area rancher in his eighties stated “We’ve had some bad years in the Panhandle, but we didn’t have the high prices along with it. Cake for my cattle is running over $300 a ton and here it is May, and my grass isn’t greening up yet.” Herd elimination looms in the future for Mr. Boyd.

Joel Imler said of the conditions “I have irrigated and dryland farms and own cows. I’ve ran my irrigation wells all winter just to keep the wheat alive and to have any crop because the dryland is gone. I’ve also pre-watered and still have to water to germinate the seed on my irrigated acreages. I am hanging onto my cows for awhile only because I have feed on hand. The last moisture that did any good for us was the blizzard of January 2007.”

For the first time in 65 years, feed and supplement prices along with the extended drought and concern for the range resources Jim Belford and his partners with the Lazy VE Ranch entirely destocked by selling their herd of 198. “This decision was one of the hardest we?ve ever had to make”, says Belford, “but we have no choices left because we?ve only had .50 moisture since June 07. I’ve had neighbors and other ranchers calling to say they were planning to destock all or part of their herds since I shipped last week. I know that 1500 head of cattle left Cimarron County last week.”

These scenarios are county wide. The plights of our producers are critical. All our representatives, legislators, and government need to be informed.

We, by no means, want to make the flood, ice and fire victims in Oklahoma conditions less than the Panhandle; however the news media and some reports fail to recognize the Panhandle. Please join with us in getting the word out for our county and exploring assistance available.

Sincerely,

Signed

Hal Clark, Chairman,

Board of Directors Cimarron County Conservation District

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