Oklahomans have long been known for their generosity. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the “Oklahoma standard” became nationally known due to the response of local citizens to the tragedy. We take pride in being good neighbors.
Citizens of Ethiopia knew about the Oklahoma standard long before the 1990s even though their neighborhood is far, far from Oklahoma. A new documentary highlights that fact, focusing on efforts by Oklahoma professors and students to share agriculture knowledge with the people of Ethiopia decades ago.
The project was conceived in 1949 and resulted in development of a rich coffee industry in Ethiopia at that time. Mel Tewahade, whose father was governor of Harer in Ethiopia in the 1960s, recalls how his dad “used to tell me how beautiful these people are.” Until that time, Tewahade “didn’t know what Oklahoma was.”
Oklahomans should take pride in that legacy.
The misery index loves company.
Actually it’s the heat index, that measure of temperature mixed with the humidity. But with recent heating, the temperature is becoming a master over the moisture. Lower humidity may help 98 degrees feel more like, well, 99 degrees, but it also increases fire danger. That’s misery wrapped in a cocoon of concern.
The miserable company Oklahoma is now keeping is the 72 percent of the country labeled by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in the “abnormally dry” category or worse. This is the largest geographic extent of drought or pre-drought conditions recorded since the Drought Monitor began in 1999, according to Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus.
“Odds favor more drought development as summer trudges ahead and a dry Oklahoma looks with anticipation toward the fall rainy season,” McManus noted last week in an Oklahoma Climatological Survey press release. Nearly half the state is already enduring drought conditions, he said, with the remainder “abnormally” dry, a precursor to outright drought classification.
Given the misery of the summer of 2011, this is discomfiting news. We’ve gone from “Surely it can’t be as bad as last year” to “Here we go again!”
At least the economic misery index (adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate) doesn’t yet have the firefighters on high alert.
According to Bloomberg News, this year’s Oklahoma wheat yields will range as high as 60 bushels an acre, and the state’s crop was 73 percent harvested as of June 3. Oklahoma is typically the second-biggest U.S. winter-wheat producer, and our production may near 154.8 million bushels, the highest in four years. But achieving those numbers was no sure thing due to potential federal regulations. Last year, proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations would have essentially made dust illegal during harvest, leaving farmers worried that they had to achieve the impossible or face fines. Then federal Labor Department officials proposed regulations banning teenagers from taking traditional jobs on farms, including harvest work. Fortunately, regulators backed down after public outcry. This year’s early wheat harvest may have been made possible by weather, but it also owes a lot to the failure of those regulations.
Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
So much for trying to hold commercial pet breeders accountable in Oklahoma. A bill approved this week in a state House committee would do away with the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders, which was formed two years ago to regulate large-scale dog and cat breeders. The idea of creating the board was opposed from the start by many breeders who prefer the way things have always been done — and helped make Oklahoma a haven for unscrupulous puppy and kitten mill operators. Once established, the board struggled with leadership issues. This bill would place the board’s duties with the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department. Backers say the agency is best equipped to handle the job. Our guess is that instead, the monitoring of dog and cat breeders will become an afterthought in the large agency.
Above: Dog rescued from puppy mill. (AP Photo/The News Messenger)
Philip K. Howard is taking his call for smarter, more responsible government to The Atlantic magazine. On the magazine’s website, theatlantic.com, can be found “America the Fixable,” a link that features essays by Howard — author of “The Death of Common Sense” — and others that reveal just how nonsensical our government can be. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, R-Tenn., wrote about the government’s mohair subsidy, which began shortly after World War II over concerns about the future availability of wool for military uniforms. “Today, more than half a century later — when military uniforms are largely composed of synthetic material — the program still benefits goat herders in Texas, now under the friendly jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee,” Cooper said. It helps explain, he says, why “there are dozens, sometimes hundreds of overlapping and duplicative programs for favored constituencies, as opposed to one or two programs that really deliver.” This essay and others on the site are well worth the time.
1996 Mohair Producers of Oklahoma angora goat show (The Oklahoman Archives)
One cabbage at a time, Oklahoma third graders are learning hands-on lessons in responsibility and nutrition. Last year over 11,000 participated in the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program by tending their very own plants. For a state that’s 50th in consumption of fruits and vegetables, this unique educational opportunity is a great way to teach kids where vegetables come from and that they can have success at gardening. The program uses oversized cabbages so the growing process is even more fun. Oklahoma’s winner got a $1,000 college scholarship, and her family enjoyed four meals of the more than six pound produce. In other words, two best in state cabbages would easily outweigh the Best in Show Pekingese from last week’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Let’s hope the seeds planted in these children will produce a harvest of health in coming seasons.
Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Although the Obama administration may be slow learners, we give them credit for listening to protests about proposed changes in laws for child farm laborers. The U.S. Department of Labor backtracked on a set of rules that would make many farming chores illegal for children younger than 16. The changes would have had a negative impact on America’s family farms and ranches. “The department’s proposals, though well intentioned, were far too encompassing and limiting to farming youth,” said Ed Luttrell, president of the National Grange, a rural advocacy group. Where common sense is called for, federal regulators usually offer dust in the wind. Thankfully these proposed farm rules were blown away by protests from farm groups.
Democrats running for governor and U.S. Senate in California might get a boost from a ballot initiative that would make possessing and growing marijuana legal. Politico reports experts believe Proposition 19 will drive younger-voter turnout, which should help Barbara Boxer, running for Senate re-election, and Jerry Brown, running for governor. The state’s Democratic Party is neutral on the “Just Say Now” measure, and Brown, Boxer and fellow U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein oppose it. Still, analysts believe it will help Brown and Boxer because recent polling shows the under-40 demographic supports pot legalization 59 percent to 33 percent. Of course, that assumes pot enthusiasts actually get to the polls to vote.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug died Saturday in Dallas. His 95 years on earth were literally fruitful, as he probably did more than anyone in modern history to help the world feed itself with research breakthroughs in plant pathology. Acclaimed as the father of the Green Revolution, Borlaug’s advances in developing disease- and insect-resistant crops dramatically increased food production in Latin America and Asia, earning him the Nobel prize in 1970. At times he was criticized by environmentalists and others who said he created more problems than he solved. According to The New York Times, Borlaug shrugged them off as rich elites who never had to worry about where their next meal was coming from. One expert told The Times about half the world’s population goes to bed each night after eating grain descended from one of the high-yield varieties developed by Borlaug and his colleagues. Talk about impact.
Citizens are reveling in the price for a commodity they can’t do without – gasoline – just as they were grumbling about a price they could do nothing about a few months ago. For farmers and ranchers, commodity prices are a matter of survival. They can do little to control commodity prices and must live with the fact that larger harvests depress prices and lower harvests raise them – just when they have less of a crop to sell. Weather is the “commodity” that no one can control. Oklahoma harvests were generally mediocre last year, the Tulsa World reports, and farmers were often unable to take advantage of higher prices for some crops because of weather. The state’s cotton, corn and hay crops were down in 2008, but wheat, soybeans and peanuts had improved harvests from 2007. Think filling your gas tank was rough last summer? Try making a living when your petroleum-based inputs such as diesel and fertilizer are sky high and the skies are lowering with storm clouds right before harvest.