Why Oklahoma Ranchers Are Getting More Federal Drought Aid Than Any Other State

  • Logan Layden

AgriLife Today / Flickr

Since the current drought in western Oklahoma began, ranchers have collected more than $800 million in federal drought relief payments that aid livestock producers. That’s more than any other state, including California and Texas, which have larger cattle industries, The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen reports.

Here’s why:

[USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey] said the difference is likely due to the fact that Oklahoma’s drought has been less widespread but longer-lasting than California’s. While western Oklahoma has been withering under drought since late 2010, the worst conditions didn’t strike California until 2013, he said.

Allen spoke to Canadian County rancher Eric Bilderback about how difficult it has been too stay in business these past few years and what a “godsend” the federal payments through the USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program are.

Bilderback, 40, raises cattle on a ranch in Canadian County, where drought has lingered for more than four years. In that time, Bilderback and many other ranchers across western Oklahoma have had to sell off cattle to stay in business.

“We’ve been through some tough times,” Bilderback said. “We’ve been through this drought pattern, and that lack of moisture has been rough.”

Another rancher — Ken Carpenter of Mustang — told the paper the program has helped him keep his herd.

As of Thursday, 95 percent of Oklahoma is at least abnormally dry, with severe and exceptional drought conditions concentrated in their usual spots — the southwest and northwest portions of the state.