The Oklahoma Legislature took additional action last week to help agriculture producers and rural fire districts cope with the record drought currently gripping the Southern Plains.

Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) says passage of Senate Bill 996 by Senator Ron Justice (R-Chickasha) out of the Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services is a good start.

“We are very excited to see this measure moving through the legislature,” Pope said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but today’s action was another big step in getting help out to the countryside.  Our legislators who supported this measure deserve our thanks.”

Designed to provide cost-share support for agriculture producers and other landowners to deal with issues surrounding the drought, Senate Bill 996 would provide funding for emergency cost-share funds to help landowners with issues such as providing water to livestock, helping control soil erosion, improving irrigation systems, controlling the spread of water consuming invasive species like the Eastern Red Cedar, and repairing damaged pastures. 

Funds would also be provided to help rural fire districts with operational and equipment needs.  Two other emergency measures, House Bill 1827 by Representative Don Armes (R-Faxon) and House Bill 1923 by Representative Dale DeWitt (R-Braman) are awaiting hearing in the full House Appropriations Committee.  Both House Bill 1827 and House Bill 1923 will be carried in the State Senate by Senator Justice while Senate Bill 996 will be carried by Representative Armes in the House.

Senate Bill 996 now advances to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.