Agriculture

KELLY COLGAN AZAR / FLICKR / CC-BY-ND 2.0

This is the centennial year of the Migratory Bird Treaty. The compact between the United States and Canada assures many birds can travel undisturbed, but the international agreement protects one species that’s a menace to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.

HATED, BUT PROTECTED

Frank Lawrence is sick of the black vultures he’s been dealing with his entire life as a rancher in southeast Oklahoma.

StateImpact’s Logan Layden visited with OETA’s Lis Exon for the August 5 edition of Oklahoma News Report, after moderating a panel discussion on State Question 777 for the Oklahoma Policy Institute earlier in the week.

The discussion centered on the scare tactics being used by both sides of the right-to-farm issue: whether national animal rights groups are trying to force all Oklahomans to become vegans, or if Big Ag wants a license to pollute at will.

Sometime around 12,000 years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors began trying their hand at farming.

First, they grew wild varieties of crops like peas, lentils and barley and herded wild animals like goats and wild oxen. Centuries later, they switched to farming full time, breeding both animals and plants, creating new varieties and breeds. Eventually, they migrated outward, spreading farming to parts of Europe and Asia.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Heavy rains delayed the 2016 wheat harvest in Oklahoma, but the yield could be better than recent years. Many farmers, however, are still making up losses from a drought that climatologists warn could be returning.

It’s a hot, dry and relatively windless day south of Altus in southwest Oklahoma. Eight to 11 inches of rain has fallen in the area over the last few weeks, and Fred Schmedt is on his cell phone trying to keep large trucks and tractor-trailers off his field.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

After one of the driest periods on record, 2015 was the wettest year ever in Oklahoma, and the rain still hasn’t let up. But scientists say climate conditions are aligning in a way that could bring drought back to the state.

OUT OF DROUGHT

Mason Bolay doesn’t have a lot of time to talk about whether he’s prepared for the next drought. He needs to finish the daily work on his family’s farm outside Perry in north-central Oklahoma before the next thunderstorm moves in.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Budget cuts and the death of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission were the thrust of mid-April’s regular meeting of the OSRC. But the real fireworks were around State Question 777, which you’ve probably heard referred to as ‘right-to-farm. What you probably haven’t heard it called yet is “State Question 666.”

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Generations of tilling and planting on the same land have left Oklahoma’s soil in poor shape. And if farmers don’t change the way they grow crops, feeding the future won’t be easy. As Slapout, Okla., farmer Jordan Shearer puts it: “We’re creating a desert environment by plowing the damn ground.”

TAKING A TOLL

The sun hasn't been up long in Kingfisher, Okla., but it already feels like it's burning. Trucks are moving wheat as people try to get their work done early. It looks like business as usual for a hot summer day an hour northwest of Oklahoma City.

Henry Senn, Jim Willms and Bill Stolz come to CHS Plains Partners, the local grain elevator, just about every day to share stories from the good old days and talk about wheat prices.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The decades-old embargo on trade with communist Cuba cuts U.S. goods off from what would be one of their nearest international destinations. That could be changing now that the two countries are restoring diplomatic relations.

Flickr / USACETULSA

The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System that connects the Port of Catoosa — the nation’s furthest inland seaport — to the Gulf of Mexico is “a hell of a mess” after the area got nearly 20 inches of rain in May and June, port director Bob Portiss tell’s the Tulsa World.

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