July 13, 2011 Ranchers Are Encouraged To Apply For Wildfire Rebuilding Assistance
With 235 counties under burn bans (the most ever) and temperatures reaching record highs, fire experts are calling this one of the worst fire seasons in Texas history. According to the Texas Forest Service, six of the 10 largest fires ever recorded in Texas have occurred this year, scorching more than 4,000 miles of ranch fences – more miles than needed to fence the entire perimeter of Texas. As ranchers begin to rebuild their lives, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is encouraging them to apply for assistance available through the STAR Fund.
Texas Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the STAR Fund. The fund was created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies to help ranchers rebuild fences through an initiative created by Commissioner Staples called, “Operation New Fences.”
“Texas ranchers have taken a huge economic hit due to the ongoing wildfires,” said Joe Parker Jr., rancher and president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. “The cost of rebuilding fences has soared to over $40 million, and that number keeps going up as wildfires continue to burn. Thankfully, some relief is in sight through TDA’s STAR Fund and the generous private donations of Texans across the state. If you’re a rancher who’s been devastated by these wildfires, now is the time to apply for
STAR Fund applications may be downloaded at www.TexasAgriculture.gov. To be eligible, applicants must have applied for federal assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and submit the ECP 848A form with their application. Applications will also be available at local AgriLife Extension offices in counties that are eligible for ECP funding. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is extending the sign up period for the Operation New Fences voucher program to Friday, July 22 to allow producers more time to apply. Wildfires are still burning in Texas, and the impact to ranchers is not over. Currently area counties eligible to participate include: Archer, Clay and Wichita. A second round of funding is planned and needed in the fall to help additional farmers and ranchers impacted by on-going wildfires. To make a donation to the STAR Fund, or for more information, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on STAR Fund. Ranchers may also call (512) 475 -1615.