In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Todd Staples asked for an increase in assistance for farmers and ranchers who have suffered damages due to wildfires. Since January, the Texas Forest Service has recorded nearly one million acres lost to wildfires.
“Unfortunately, as our state continues to experience severe dry and windy conditions, Texas land owners will be susceptible to wildfire danger,” Commissioner Staples said. “The good news is, there are measures farmers and ranchers can take to proactively protect their livelihood, and we are working to identify assistance programs that will help producers if they do in fact suffer losses.”
Commissioner Staples urged USDA to grant emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in areas impacted by wildfires and in contiguous counties, providing the livestock producer has suffered forage loss in the primary county. The commissioner also asked for the authorization of cost share reimbursements for the installation of firebreaks on CRP land. Barren firebreaks are valuable tools to prevent fire damage.
When preventative measures are not successful, producers can often encounter high expenses when restoring their operations after devastation. With this in mind, Commissioner Staples has asked USDA to allocate appropriate funding levels to cover Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) resources that can assist Texas livestock producers who suffer damages this year. Without timely disaster aid, many producers face bankruptcy and the potential loss of their operations.
Commissioner Staples is also encouraging farmers and ranchers to take advantage of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Hay Hotline, especially now that producers will not need a hay permit. The commissioner recently requested and was granted a hay permit waiver that suspends permitting requirements and legal height restrictions for round hay bales. Farmers and ranchers can use the TDA Hay and Grazing Hotline to find available hay for sale or pastures for lease, in addition to listings of livestock haulers to move cattle and other livestock. Producers can access the Hay Hotline through TDA’s Web site, or call TDA at (800) TELL-TDA.
TDA also offers an Interest Rate Reduction Program to farmers and ranchers who have experienced crop and livestock losses. Some producers might be eligible for loans of up to $250,000, if the county in which their property is located was declared a federal disaster area. For more information on this service, contact TDA’s Rural Economic Development Division at 512-936-0273 or toll free at 877-428-7848.
Producers can also contact their local Farm Service Agency office or county judge. These offices can perform damage assessments to assist with the disaster declaration process.