Government approves drought relief for 39 counties

Tuesday, August 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Farmers and ranchers in parched Oklahoma counties are now eligible for low-interest federal loans, after 39 counties were designated as drought disaster areas.

Crops and grazing lands in the counties, located in western, central and northern Oklahoma, have been hit hard by lack of rainfall, Gov. Frank Keating said Tuesday.

``This assistance will be of use to those hardest hit by the drought,'' Keating said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 30 counties as disasters and named nine other counties as contiguous disaster areas. The designation permits farmers and ranchers to apply for low-interest loans and other forms of assistance from the Farm Service Agency.

Jim Reese, a former state representative who is state executive director of the FSA, said counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle and western Oklahoma have received 50 percent less rain than normal this summer.

The drought has scorched grasslands in the area including in Texas County, where farmers and ranchers lost 100 percent of their grazing grass, he said.

``There was not a stitch of grass in the Panhandle and parts of western Oklahoma,'' Reese said.

The drought also resulted in low production of small grain, which will impact cattlemen who rely on the grain for feed, he said.

Applicants have until April 22 to apply for federal assistance.

Eligible counties are: Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cimarron, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Garvin, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Jackson, Jefferson, Kay, Kiowa, Kingfisher, Logan, Love, Major, McClain, Noble, Oklahoma, Roger Mills, Stephens, Texas, Tillman, Washita, Woods and Woodward.