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Inhofe, Coburn, Lucas Blast Environmental Groups For Blocking Critical Oklahoma Drought Assistance

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, together with Senator Tom Coburn and Congressman Frank Lucas expressed outrage today over a temporary restraining order granted by Judge John Coughenour of the Western District of Washington Federal Court in Seattle on Tuesday July 8th, 2008, at the request of National Wildlife Federation and seven state affiliates. The decision blocked the release of some Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying and grazing. In May, USDA announced the decision to allow haying and grazing on CRP acres, stipulating that it could only take place after the nesting season for birds in the state. A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. Senator Inhofe has been working with Senator Tom Coburn, Congressman Frank Lucas, and USDA to ensure relief to farmers and ranchers in Northwest Oklahoma.

Sen. Inhofe: "As Oklahoma farmers and ranchers suffer from the devastating effects of a recent drought, it's simply outrageous that several national liberal special interest groups have blocked critical federal assistance. Northwest Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are struggling to survive the conditions and USDA very wisely enacted a program to provide some relief. I am hopeful for a quick decision tomorrow in favor of getting relief back on track to those that are in dire need. The environmentalists make the absurd claim that this drought relief will somehow ‘significantly increase global warming.'"

Dr. Coburn: "It is an outrage that the livelihood of Oklahoma ranchers and farmers is being put in jeopardy because of liberal special interest groups. Ranchers in western Oklahoma are trying to sustain livestock operations in the middle of one the worst drought our state has faced. The unfounded and absurd claims of extreme environmentalists and their lawyers have placed entire herds in real danger. I stand strong with Senator Inhofe and Congressman Frank Lucas in opposing this action."

Congressman Lucas: "The use of CRP land for haying and grazing was greatly needed by the ranchers and farmers suffering from unusually high feed costs and a severe drought in the Third Congressional District and all over Oklahoma. Many farmers and ranchers relied on the release of these lands, and the decision by this court to suspend its use has already had a very negative effect. I am hopeful that a decision is made quickly in this case restoring haying and grazing rights to those people who need it."

As reported in the Oklahoma Farm Report, Oklahoma Cattlemen's Executive Director Scott Dewald explained the dire consequences of the ruling: "Dewald documented thirty ranchers that will lose almost $10,000 apiece if they are not allowed to graze the CRP land that was offered to them by Uncle Sam. Worse, many of those herds will face partial or total liquidation as the CRP land was one of their last options to survive the summer."

Mike Spradling, Oklahoma Farm Bureau President: "Farm Bureau is extremely concerned about the severe economic hardship this injunction imposes on farmers and ranchers. Producers relied on USDA's announcement about the new program and have already begun using their precious financial resources to prepare the land for haying and grazing. It's important for the court to hear from farmers and ranchers about the harmful effects of this injunction, both since July 8 when the injunction was issued and going forward."

Ray Wulf, President of the American Farmers and Ranchers: "The Lawsuit and restraining order brought forward by the National Wildlife Federation is just another example of special interests being allowed to impose their misguided purpose in front of the needs of farmers, ranchers and consumers. This restriction is having a profound impact on the economic needs and survival of farmers, ranchers and their communities devastated by drought. This action will ultimately lead to further increases in the surging price for groceries that consumers are already experiencing. The philosophy being advocated by the National Wildlife Federation is counterproductive to supplying food for consumers' table."

A July 9, 2008 letter was sent to Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer in support of the temporary restraining order by Environmental Defense Fund, The Minnesota Project, Sierra Club, Center for Native Ecosystems, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Partners for Sustainable Pollination, Environmental Working Group, Pollinator Partnership, Defenders of Wildlife, American Farmland Trust, World Wildlife Fund, American Rivers, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and American Bee Keeping Federation.

According to the article in the High Plains Journal, "Judge issues restraining order stopping emergency grazing on CRP" by Jennifer M. Latzke, "This decision affects 24 million acres of CRP land that was opened to Critical Feed Use provisions by the USDA May 27. The opening of those acres was to occur after the primary nesting season had ended for grass-nesting birds. The acres were to provide feed and forage to alleviate the escalating price of feed for livestock producers. Several states had begun opening up their CRP acres as of July 2, including Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Colorado was set to begin activity July 15. Texas, the largest state has 583,000 acres available for signup in the program, followed by Colorado with 253,000 acres, Oklahoma with 210,00 acres, and and New Mexico with 177,000 acres."

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