TAHLEQUAH — At the Tribal Council’s resource committee meeting Aug. 15, Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Secretary Chad Harsha reported on the tribe’s efforts to help cattle ranchers during an ongoing drought.
The “Relief for Ranchers” program ended on August 15 and applications are currently being processed. The program targeted Cherokee cattle ranchers to help purchase hay and other livestock feed by making a one-time payment of $500 to up to 2,000 ranchers, equivalent to $1 million in funding. dollars.
Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire asked if CN Natural Resources was bringing back hay production resources once provided by the ministry to ranchers and farmers, as a backup for those who were unable to apply for the relief funding.
Harsha said after the reorganization of CN Natural Resources in 2021, the cost of producing hay for sale was prohibitive.
“There have been some changes in the way we run our hay production, and I don’t anticipate the hay sales program returning in the foreseeable future,” Harsha said. “What we decided to do is put in place a better and more comprehensive land management program where we harvest and pack the hay we need. Then we put the other properties that we may not need into the larger rental program that individuals can buy, as they do every year, into the leasehold properties that we have through the real estate services. This allows us to free up staff to go out and improve fencing on many of these different properties so that we can increase lease values over time. The idea behind selling hay was to generate revenue for the Department of Natural Resources. »
CN Board Chairman Mike Shambaugh said the drought was not only affecting cattle ranchers, but also the means the tribe had to produce the hay needed for their internal use. So even though the tribe had to provide hay to sell, they were unable to produce what was needed.
“We have quite a large investment in our bison and our cattle and I understand that we need to take care of what we have as well, in the most efficient and cost-effective way,” Shambaugh said. “But like anything else with hay and things like that…you can’t predict every year when you’re going to be in there. We didn’t get the breadth of hay we would normally get in good weather. It’s like that. We also didn’t get what we wanted, so I think we have to keep that in perspective as well.
In addition, CN Natural Resources is also studying the effects of drought on the seed bank.
“We recently had an erratic weather pattern… which we’ve all been experiencing here for the past couple of months and it’s been a pretty big hit to our seed bank,” Harsha said. “We haven’t assessed the full impact of this, but we anticipate there will be slightly fewer offers each time we do our distribution.”