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January 2, 2014

Growing oil patch fuels Stillwater-area economy


STILLWATER, Okla. — County cattlemen doing annual two-step

It’s the same old two-step for Payne County’s producers, who are watching Washington, D.C., for a farm bill and the weather forecast for drought-ending moisture.

Payne County’s agriculture revolves around cattle and the crops used to feed the herds, Payne County Extension Educator Nathan Anderson said.

Strong feeder cattle prices and improving pasture conditions have prodded producers to rebuild herds. Feeder cattle are steers or heifers mature enough to be placed in a feedlot where they will be fattened prior to slaughter.

The livestock markets are good and active, Anderson said.

Payne County producers reduced herd numbers during the droughts of 2011 and 2012.

“The cow herd is still building,” Anderson said. “With the strong markets that leaves a lot of good potential for the producers.”

Weather — specifically moisture — will be the key. Rain or snow in January, February and March will help produce forage, hay and keep ponds full.

More than 38 percent of the state remained classified in at least moderate drought as 2014 started, said State Climatologist Gary McManus. Drought conditions should continue throughout Oklahoma through March.

The other challenge is in Washington D.C.

Congress failed to pass a farm bill in 2012-2013. The bill never made it onto the House floor in 2012. The House and Senate passed wildly different farm bills in 2013. A conference committee is trying to cobble the bills together.

Conference Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., expressed confidence in December that a farm bill could be finished this month.

“I will file legislation to extend the current farm bill through January to allow us to finish our work without the threat that permanent law will be implemented,” Lucas said in early December.

Anderson said he couldn’t predict what is going to happen in Washington with a farm bill.

“You would expect there would be a farm bill established some time in the next year,” he said.

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