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Group works to aid ranches hit by wildfires

The Harrison County Cattle Association, with assistance from the Purdue Extension Office, is collecteding monetary donations to aid ranchers affected by this month’s wildfires.
The fires have spread across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle, killing six people and at least 10,000 cattle, destroying more than 100 homes and ravaging more than two million acres. Farmers and ranchers have been devastated by this disaster, some losing their entire livelihood along with their homes.
‘This is what we know so far,’ Trent Loos, a rancher in Nebraska and advocate for rural America, who spoke in Harrison County last fall. ‘These ranchers are now trying to pick up their livelihoods and figure out what’s next.’
The grazing acres in the affected areas were already in a drought situation, he said, and the high winds didn’t help the matters once a spark was made.
Some of the pastures on these ranches go for miles and miles.
‘That’s a lot of fence that will need to be rebuilt, let alone the grassland that needs to be re-established and cattle herds that will need to be replaced,’ Loos said.
There are federal programs available for the ranchers through the Farm Service Agencies, but that money will only go so far. Most of that funding is through the Farm Bill and disaster relief funds designated at the federal level.
‘The federal relief funds will only go so far,’ Miranda Ulery, Ag and Natural Resources Extension Educator in Harrison County, said. ‘After the initial restructure, those farmers and ranchers will still need to rebuild their businesses and their normal lives.
‘It would take an act of Congress to increase the limits for these programs,’ she said. ‘While calling your representatives in D.C. might provoke a discussion, there are other ways we can help now.’
Loos suggested financial assistance be offered as opposed to sending materials.
‘People outside of the 250-mile radius surrounding the fires are just not going to easily be able to haul in materials and make it financially reasonable,’ Ulery said. ‘Why not help pay for the gas of the guys that are right here and can get the materials needed to the ranchers faster?’
Five locations in Harrison County ‘ Uhl’s Feed and Small Engines, the Soil & Water Conservation District Office/Farm Service Agency and Purdue Extension Office, all in Corydon, Longbottom & Hardsaw in Central and Lost Creek Feed and Grain in Ramsey ‘ have agreed to be collection points for monetary donations.
The Harrison County Cattle Association, which will match donations up to $500, will collect donations through Wednesday, April 5. All donations will be sent to the Working Ranch Cowboy Association on behalf of the Harrison County Cattle Association. The WRCA was formed specifically to provide financial and other assistance during significant hardships as well as scholarships for continuing education and is open to all farmers and ranchers in need.
For more information about this support effort, contact the Extension office at 812-738-4236 or by email at [email protected]

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