Monday, May 9, 2011

As Wildfire Losses Top $20M, FEMA Denies Assistance to Help Texans Recover

As Texas wildfires continue destroying the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers and neighboring citizens – and jeopardizing the food supply of every Texan and American alike – the costs of recovery are mounting. But instead of helping to the extent we need, Washington is pouring proverbial fuel on the flames.

According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas wildfires in April caused approximately $20.4 million in damages and counting. While most people are quick to imagine homes, barns and farmland among the losses, other equally devastating damages come in the form of destroyed fencing, dead livestock and the complete loss of current and future grazing acreage.

As the AgriLife Extension Service points out, fencing is one of the most critical and costly agricultural expenses, averaging about $10,000 per mile to build, with the cost increasing depending on the terrain. With approximately 1,200 miles of fencing destroyed, the math gets downright daunting.

To date, the AgriLife Extension Service says more than 2 million acres have burned in Texas and more than 500 cattle, horses and sheep have been killed. Add the losses of structures, farm equipment and other supplies, and then multiply it by the damage and deaths that are not yet tallied, and you get a pretty grim picture of the road ahead.

Yet, FEMA recently formally refused to declare this devastation a major disaster, which now means Texans who have suffered these losses will not receive some of the federal assistance they severely need right now although they have willingly paid for it with their tax dollars when disaster struck other regions of the country. It’s important to remember if these families are not able to recover, and indeed go out of business, the daily food and fiber needs of every Texan and American stand to be jeopardized.

Our citizens send their hard-earned money to the federal government to fund agencies like FEMA that are responsible for helping Americans recover from disasters. Now, when we need it most, FEMA denies its full assistance. It is unconscionable our federal government would reject a plea from hard-working citizens in their most desperate time of need.

Let’s help our farmers and ranchers rebuild so they can continue to provide for our families and theirs. Please donate to the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund, or STAR Fund, by visiting

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