Agricultural producers in all 77 Oklahoma counties are eligible for low-interest emergency loans due to the ongoing drought.
Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 76 of Oklahoma's 77 counties as primary natural disaster areas because of the drought. Wednesday's declaration makes farmers in the areas eligible for emergency loans with a 2.15 percent interest rate.
Although Ottawa County was not designated as a primary disaster area, ag producers there are also eligible because the county is contiguous to those in the primary disaster declaration.
“The drought situation here in our state is proving to be challenging for all sectors of agriculture,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese. “This designation will assist our producers in making critical operating decisions as we head into the New Year.
“I understand the challenges that Mother Nature can bring to the agriculture industry and I hope for more rain in 2013,” Reese said in a news release.
“I continue to express my thankfulness to those in the ag sector for their fortitude and ingenuity to fight through tough weather conditions to continue to provide the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.”
Designation covers 2013 crops
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas. Reese noted that all Oklahoma counties were similarly designated in 2012. The new designation will cover 2013 crops.
Last year was the 15th-driest year on record for the contiguous United States, 2.57 inches below average.
In Oklahoma, 2012 was the 12th driest on record in terms of statewide average precipitation, 10.77 inches below normal. In 2011, Oklahoma finished 11.34 inches below normal for the year.
Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey said that other than a six-month “wet stretch” from October 2011 to March 2012 in portions of the state, drought has been persistent and severe across much of Oklahoma since late fall 2010. Oklahoma has missed out on the key parts of the rainy season, from May through mid-June, for two straight years.
“That has allowed the drought to flourish and explode in the summer,” he said. “If drought is in place or intensifying as summer begins, extreme heat is usually the result, which helps feed the drought conditions.
“The 2010-11 drought episode was generally a Southern Plains disaster while the 2012 episode was a Northern Plains problem. Unfortunately, Oklahoma has been at the center-point between two episodes and been fully impacted by both.”
In addition to the drought, 2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees, 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average, and 1 degree above 1998, the previous warmest year in the contiguous U.S.
In 2012, Oklahoma had a statewide average temperature of 63 degrees. That breaks the previous record of 62.8 degrees from 1954, making it Oklahoma's warmest year on records that began in 1895.