By Todd Staples
Texas Agriculture Commissioner
As Texas ranchers struggle to restore approximately 6,200 miles of fences lost to historic wildfires, The Texas Department of Agriculture is leading a statewide effort to help ranchers rebuild.
Since August 2011, Texas ranchers have received $70,000 in assistance through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund. Last month, TDA staff volunteered to help Bastrop County rancher Larry Miller rebuild.
The devastation in Bastrop County and across Texas is among the most catastrophic in the history of our great state. It was important to roll up our sleeves and bring help and hope to fellow ranchers in desperate need of fencing. If you’re in the business of ranching, fencing is one of life’s basic necessities.
Nearly 30 TDA employees helped Miller restore his destroyed fences. Miller said it took only a matter of minutes for the fire to destroy what he spent a lifetime building. He was very appreciative of those who assisted him and other fire victims get back what they have lost.
The STAR Fund was created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies, including Farm Credit, Valero and McCoy’s Building Supply, which generously donated the first $20,000. Farmers and ranchers who are receiving assistance from STAR Fund are receiving a $1,000 voucher to purchase fence-building supplies. STAR Fund money can be used to assist farmers and ranchers in rebuilding fences, restoring operations and paying for other agricultural disaster relief.
According to the Texas Forest Service, 30,000 fires scorched 4 million acres in Texas during the most recent wildfire season. In Bastrop County, 34,068 acres burned in the historic Labor Day weekend fire that destroyed more than 1,600 homes. Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports total to-date Texas agricultural losses due to fire of more than $217 million.
To make a donation to the STAR Fund, or for more information, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov. I encourage all Texans to assist fire victims in any way they can. Whether it’s a volunteer effort or donation to the STAR Fund, any assistance is appreciated.