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Update: More financial relief on tap for wildfire victims

From the moment the western wildfires began to swallow farms and ranches, we all knew there would be no easy band-aid to fix the damage to the ag industry. Though the most intense wildfire spots have been extinguished, there are still blazes — and there are still efforts being made to save what can be saved and to help those in need.

The response from many corners of agriculture has been a heartening one, as we unite under a shared desire to help our farming brothers and sisters. And the relief continues. Monsanto just announced that it will give $50,000 in matching donations to Texas Farm Bureau’s Panhandle Wildfire Relief Fund. More than half a million acres in that part of the state have been burned, and landowners lost buildings, equipment, livestock, and fences. And, as saddening as it has been, some ranchers lost their lives.

In addition to the aid provided to Texas farmers and ranchers, Monsanto is lending a helping hand to those suffering from wildfire losses in neighboring states.

“We consider it a privilege to play a small part in the Texas relief efforts and encourage others to join us in restoring the livelihoods of the state’s farmers and ranchers who have lost homes, crops, livestock and grazing lands. We’re all in this together,” said Brett Begemann, president and chief operating officer at Monsanto.

Donations can be made here for the Wildfire Relief Fund.

Relief efforts are happening on a smaller scale, too.

Far away in in central Virginia, a fundraiser called Hope for the Heartland has been set up for April 7. The chili dinner held at Springlake Stockyard in Moneta is a $10-a-plate event, followed by a live auction. Power tractors, gift certificates, and homemade knifes fashioned out of horseshoes are some of the donated items that will be sold.

In Missouri, a GoFundMe page titled Central MO Wildfire Relief Convoy has raised $3,325 in the past 10 days (it’s goal was $3,000). The money is being used to help fund the delivery of aid items to those in need.

“We can’t do it alone. We need your help. Fuel cost is high,” the organizers said on the page. “We are working class citizens trying to accomplish a noble deed. Please, if you can, donate to our cause. Help us deliver the help these folks need.”

There are still opportunities to pitch in. Please do so, if you have the means.

 

Cover image is by Outdoor Exposure by Denise.

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Ag nominee Perdue calm and measured during confirmation hearing

He was told that he has a big job ahead of him, and that he needs to be a source of leadership during times of crisis and in the international trade market.

Sonny Perdue, who was born and raised in agriculture and rose to serve as governor of Georgia, vowed to meet every one of those challenges in the best interests of the industry.

“Our farmers are good stewards” of the land, Perdue told the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee during a confirmation hearing on Thursday. “They need to be incentivised in a way that makes them even better than in the past.”

Perdue, sporting a tractor tie at the table, showed that he has a broad understanding of various ag markets and didn’t seem rattled at questions. He sought to reassure lawmakers who could be affected by Trump administration cuts, and he was aware of the downturn in market trends and said he has goals of resurrecting prices.

He also spoke specifically to dairy: “There’s no industry that can survive with the volatility of prices that the dairy industry deals with.”

And to biotechnology: “The growth in agriculture that we’ve had with less inputs and less inputs is phenomenal.”

And to trade: “We would love to have Cuba as a customer.”

He also showed moments of levity, like when he was invited to tour dairy farms in New York, and he responded that he’d be willing to do so — as long as he didn’t have to actually do any milking. He’s more than paid his dues over the years.

Some of the more heartening moments came when he affirmed the importance of rural broadband and the high value of immigrant workers in agriculture.

In the wake of the recent wildfire crisis that has affected Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado, he said that ag approaches these kinds of issues incorrectly (and expensively) by being too reactive to times of need rather than be more proactive in dealing with trouble and helping the farmers and ranchers. That includes better forest and land management and to have a funding mechanism in place for relief.

He handled himself well, and had a mix of easy and difficult questions. The vibe was one of general approval of his possibility as the next Secretary of Agriculture.

Lawmakers ended saying that they would work quickly to schedule a business meeting to vote on Perdue’s confirmation, and they thanked him for his willingness to be in the job. If confirmed, the 70-year-old would be the first Southerner in the job in more than two decades.

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