The Southern Plains Climate Hub partnered with Dr. Amy Hagerman, Assistant Professor and Agriculture and Food Policy Specialist at Oklahoma State University, the USDA NRCS, and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts to conduct a series of conversations about climate change with Oklahoma Conservation District staff. Dr. Hagerman led the conversations and what follows is a summary of her findings.
Oklahoma has seen an increased incidence of extreme climate-related events in the first 20 years of the 21st Century as compared to the last 20 years of the previous century. This includes drought, flooding events, extreme cold, and severe storms. Climate projections for the US indicate a likelihood that this trend will continue without intervention through greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, including efforts originating in agriculture. As a new farm bill is developed and implemented, these topics will continue to be timely and relevant. The “Climate Conversations” program has successfully been implemented by the Climate Hubs and NRCS in other states. In 2022, a slightly reimagined Climate Conversations program was implemented in Oklahoma. The program included a survey of the perspectives and challenges of climate change as identified by farmers and ranchers, state and federal conservation agency employees, and Oklahoma Conservation District employees in November of 2022. The Oklahoma Climate Conversations program focused on the needs and concerns of those on the front lines of conservation in the state through a partnership by the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Oklahoma State University Extension, and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).
Key Findings and Impacts
Participants (n= 248) did feel that climate change is happening and climate change impacts are observable in the state. Extreme weather events were the strongest evidence of climate change listed by participants. Further, participants were concerned about climate change impacts in the future, and drought was of particular concern. This may have been influenced heavily by the intense drought Oklahoma was under in the fall of 2022. Water was a primary conservation concern, including pond management and water for livestock as well as drilling water wells for livestock or agricultural use. Regarding conservation practices, there was some difference between the farmers and ranchers in the audience and the conservation agency employees.
Oklahoma is a state where climate change presentations in Extension can be a difficult sell for audiences. Yet, this program has shown that there are ways to have climate conversations across all producer groups. The Climate Conversations program has already generated an impact in the state, with requests for additional Climate Conversations presentations among minority producers in partnership with Langston University.
Dr. Hagerman’s complete report can be accessed here.