October 16, 2013
By Graham Lee Brewer
Gov. Mary Fallin declared a drought emergency for five counties in the southwestern and Panhandle regions of the state Tuesday.
Jackson, Tillman, Greer, Harmon, and Texas counties may be the first to access the state's new Emergency Drought Relief Fund, which was established last session with the passage of House Bill 1923.
“These five counties have faced three years of unrelenting drought,” Fallin said. “It's not just an inconvenience; for many in these communities, it has caused real economic hardship.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor currently classifies the droughts in Jackson, Tillman, Greer, and Harmon counties as either extreme or exceptional, and Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey said over the last year the southwest region of the state has received nearly 8 inches less rain than average.
J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, said that from the beginning of the current drought in the fall of 2010 to the following year, the extreme lack of rain has cost the state's agricultural industry about $1 billion.
Blayne Arthur, associate commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry said not only are the food and crop producers being hurt, so are the local communities.