Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Exodus from Family Farms May Be Seen / in State, Say Officials

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Exodus from Family Farms May Be Seen / in State, Say Officials

Article excerpt

Just when Oklahoma farmers were climbing out of the hole, drought-like conditions gave them another obstacle, and officials say without federal help - or rain - another exodus from the family farm may be just around the bend.

``Farmers are just now turning the corner,'' Burton Thompson, administrative assistant for the Oklahoma Farmers Union, said Wednesday. ``Now to get hit with a sudden loss of income that was not expected. . .I think we'll see a continuing exodus from the family farm and a tendency for larger, what we refer to as `super', farms.''

``If you project that down the road, it will lead to higher prices for the consumers.''

Scattered showers have dampened some areas of Oklahoma in the past few days, but not enough to erase reminders of dry conditions that farmers consider to be a drought. The eastern portion of the state is parched in some areas. The surface soil is cracked and agriculture officials say only soil conservation practices have kept the land from losing the top soil like it did during the Dust Bowl.

Officials said rain came hard and early this year, but now it's gone. That leaves summer crops - peanuts and cotton, for example - vulnerable to drought-like conditions, and cuts off farmers from federal relief because on paper, Oklahoma is OK.

``But to the farmer, when the land becomes parched or so dry to the point that it prevents planting. . .then that becomes drought-like conditions to him,'' Thompson said.

James Lockett, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to change present criteria, which allows some relief to states that get less than 40 percent of normal rainfall.

The driest area of Oklahoma - in the east - has gotten 50 to 75 percent of normal rainfall, the National Weather Service said.

``Our rain months - May and June - didn't come through,'' Lockett said Wednesday. ``You can get all your rains all at once and still go through a traumatic situation, which is what we're in right now. …

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