Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Craig Not Sure Bills Help to Farmers / Free Vocational Education Bill Significant

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Craig Not Sure Bills Help to Farmers / Free Vocational Education Bill Significant

Article excerpt

Agriculture Commissioner Jack Craig says helping Oklahoma's struggling farmers is like building a house - one brick at a time.

""Anything we can do has to help a little,'' Craig said Wednesday.

Several bills approved by the 1986 Legislature are designed to help Oklahoma's farmers, but Craig says he's not sure if the measures will make much of a dent in the farm crisis.

""If I had known exactly what to do, I'd have written up the legislation,'' he said.

Sen. John Dahl, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, believes the most significant farm-related action taken by the Legislature this year was a measure providing free vocational-technical education to financially troubled farmers.

Dahl, D-Barnsdall, sponsored the Agricultural Employment Retraining Act of 1986, introduced as ""a response to the farm and ranch depression of the 1980s,'' the authors state.

The act provides farmers with tuition waivers for up to 36 months at state-supported vocational-technical schools.

Farmers who have defaulted on any agriculture-related loan since Jan. 1, 1983, are eligible for the program. Farmers also can qualify for the tuition waivers if they had been the subject of a foreclosure action or if they could possibly save their farm by learning a skill.

""So many in agriculture are trained now,'' Dahl said, ""but they can go to school and get certified to become welders or plumbers. A farmer is the only one who's a doctor, businessman, mechanic - he has to be everything to make a living.''

Dahl said he finds it sad that the most significant bill to aid Oklahoma's farmers will help them learn another trade.

""A lot of them aren't going back to the farm,'' he said.

Legislators also included a provision in the Agriculture Department's budget that will allow the agency to join other groups and agencies working to help farmers, Craig said.

The Department of Agriculture previously had been unable to join outside efforts, including those by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches and certain programs at Oklahoma State University, to benefit the farmer, Craig said. …

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