(Posted Thu. Mar 23rd, 2017)
When disaster strikes in rural America, you can always count on a neighbor to pitch in and lend a helping hand. It is who we are and it is part of our tradition and heritage. In times of large-scale devastation, all of us working in U.S. agriculture feel the effect because we know that our lives and our futures are inextricably linked.
American agriculture has been dealt a heavy blow due to the recent wildfires across the Central and Southern Plains. More than 1 million acres have been consumed, at least seven lives taken and countless injuries inflicted in the rural areas of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Persistent dry weather accompanied by strong winds and low humidity continues to produce conditions that endanger neighboring counties.
Our friends in the livestock industry have been the hardest hit by these fires. Farmers and ranchers in these states have lost homes, cattle, and hogs numbering in the thousands, and most importantly, their livelihood. Damage in Texas alone has been estimated at $21 million, and this figure is expected to increase because it does not account for the loss of equipment. The federal Livestock Indemnity Program may help offset some losses and the Emergency Conservation Program may help ranchers replace fences. However, these funds won’t come close to covering the extent of the damage. How much aid will be made available and when it will arrive has yet to be determined.
Just two short months ago, I penned a piece underscoring the symbiotic nature of the corn and livestock industries and corn’s desire to help support colleagues in animal agriculture. Those weren’t just words. To help lend immediate aid to those in affected areas, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has pledged $10,000 for local wildfire disaster assistance. Some of our state corn organizations have also made donations. I want to take this opportunity, however, to ask all of our corn farmers to remember your neighbors in this time of need. Donations of feed, hay, and dollars are still needed to maintain herds and rebuild the lives and the livelihoods that have been devastated by these fires.
To our customers, friends, and ranching colleagues: we know that money can’t – or won’t – fix the scars created by these wildfires. However, please know our hopes and prayers are with you and that spring will bring a rebirth of both land and spirit.