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Service Proposed for Fire Victims

September 22, 2000

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Wildfires that have blackened pastures across Oklahoma have added another worry for ranchers trying to figure out how to feed their livestock over the winter.

Many ranchers already were concerned after this summer’s drought dried ponds, reduced the size of the hay crop and forced ranchers to begin feeding hay to their livestock earlier than normal.

The Oklahoma Farm Bureau estimates farmers and ranchers will suffer more than $600 million in damages because of the drought. The estimate includes fall-harvested crops, hay, forage and beef cattle. The loss of fall wheat pasture is estimated at $150 million alone.

The Farm Bureau is trying to put together a listing service that would bring together fire victims with local farmers and ranchers who can offer help.

``Our listing service will allow people impacted by the fires _ who have lost their hay crop, lost their winter grazing, may have lost stables for their horses _ to be able to get in contact with people with facilities, hay or grass on a temporary or long-term basis,″ said Scott Bulling, commodity director for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. ``Hopefully, this will help some of the producers affected by the fires.″

Bulling is no stranger to wildfire. He farms in the Orlando-Mulhall area and is a recent arson victim.

``We’ve lost some of our hay crop ... two different times in the last month,″ he said. ``It was set on fire. We lost a couple hundred round bales of hay.″

The bureau is modeling the listing service after a successful fall wheat pasture listing service begun last year, he said.

Experts said fires are an additional burden to agricultural producers.

``The biggest loss is simply loss of forage needed for cattle, horses and sheep,″ said David Williams, agriculture extension agent with the Logan County Extension Office. ``Pastures are burned up. There’s not much for animals to eat and what’s there is dry.″

Jack Carson, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said the department doesn’t know how many cattle or livestock are displaced by the fires.

``Some of these folks are probably going to need to lease pasture all winter long, if that’s the case this certainly might be a better deal for them,″ he said about the Farm Bureau’s listing service.


WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Byron Dorgan said Thursday he will try to get money to compensate farmers who suffered crop damage not covered by crop insurance.

Dorgan, D-N.D., said he’s working with the staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee to come up with a formula that would aid farmers who have been paid below market value for damaged crops.

``Many of them have harvested a bountiful crop, only to discover that the big yield produced grain that isn’t worth anything,″ Dorgan said. ``Those quality losses are devastating _ already about $200 million in the state alone _ and they’re not covered by crop insurance.″

Dorgan, who has been appointed to a House-Senate conference committee to iron out differences in the House and Senate agriculture spending bills, said he would try to include the money in conference.

If the conference does not meet, Dorgan said, he will try to include the money in an omnibus spending package.

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