By Chris Wright, The News On 6
SKIATOOK, OK -- Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are eligible for relief after enduring what officials say is a year of extreme weather. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given a federal disaster designation to nearly every county. The disaster declaration makes farmers and ranchers eligible for Farm Service Agency Loans, and some say the help is sorely needed.
It has been a tough few years for pecan farmer Chad Selman, owner of S & S Pecan Farm. Nearly two years later, he is still grappling with the fallout from the ice storm that damaged 90% of his 6,000 pecan trees.
"The first day after the ice storm, you couldn't drive a truck through this entire orchard," said Chad Selman.
This year, a late April, a freeze wreaked havoc on the crop. While there may not be a defining severe weather moment for 2009, agriculture officials say Oklahoma farmers and ranchers have been affected by a bit of everything.
Drought and fire ruined much of the wheat crop in the western part of the state, and spring hail and flooding caused all sort of problems in central Oklahoma.
There are 74 of 77 Oklahoma counties that have been designated disaster areas by the USDA, and Selman plans to apply for help.
"It's really been a great help for us. It's a great tool for farmers and ranchers to use in these bad times," said pecan farmer Chad Selman.
Selman is also diversifying, adding cattle to his property.
The Selmans say the cattle help them subsidize their income, but they still they rely on the pecan harvest for most of their money. However, it could be seven to 10 years before the damaged trees return to normal.
The farmer, and now rancher, understands the risks that come with relying on Oklahoma weather, but says the tough luck has not deterred him.
"It's a family farm and we love doing it. We're willing to take the risk and if we didn't love doing it, we'd probably be doing something else," said Chad Selman.
Adair, Cherokee, and Pushmataha counties were the only counties not designated primary disaster areas by the USDA. But, farmers and ranchers in those areas are still eligible to apply for loans.