The Governor's Podium - updated

Monday, September 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Frank Keating, Governor of Oklahoma
e-mail Frank Keating.

By the time this column is published, I hope it is cooler and wetter where you live. But even if the hot, dry spell breaks soon, Oklahoma has suffered serious damage from the late summer weather of 2000.

Here 's what we've been doing to help: On August 29, I declared a disaster emergency, an important first step in securing federal disaster declarations that will help farmers and ranchers.

I also met with U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and requested that seven counties be declared federal disaster areas. Secretary Glickman assured me that federal action would be prompt.

Residents of those counties -- Carter, Comanche, Cotton, Jefferson, Love, Marshall and Tillman -- will be eligible for various low-interest loans.

Certainly the long hot summer of 2000 has been an inconvenience to most Oklahomans, but our farmers and ranchers have been the hardest hit. It appears that the peanut crop is essentially lost, and that many ranchers have had to sell cattle, often at losses.

Fire danger has also been extreme, and at this writing a burn ban is in place for virtually the entire state. I have also worked with heads of various state agencies to upgrade our firefighting capabilities, including using prison inmates and National Guard members to augment firefighting brigades.

Finally, I asked state agency heads to confer on strategies to not only cope with the drought of 2000, but to assure that state responses to any future hot, dry spells are swift and helpful.

You will recall that two years ago we launched a hay distribution system for ranchers in our driest counties. That's the kind of effort state government does well, and we need to be ready to do the same again in the future if such help is needed.

The summer of 2000 has already passed the record setting summer of 1936 as the worst in state history. Luckily, we are working together to ease the damage.

That's the Oklahoma way.