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Ranchers continue recovery efforts after Panhandle wildfires

Green grass is once again growing in the Panhandle, spreading hope as farmers and ranchers continue recovery efforts after the devastating wildfires burned through the region earlier this year.

“Things are looking better. Green grass is good for the soil, and we’ve seen a lot of that recently,” John Haley, a Hemphill County rancher, said. “We just received a little bit of rain throughout the Panhandle, pretty widespread from a half inch to over two inches. I think that does really good for everybody’s attitudes.”

Although a total loss amount hasn’t been released by agency officials, the damages were staggering.

More than 1.5 million acres burned, destroying pastures, fences, buildings and homes.

“Our losses were extensive but not as extensive as some. We feel very fortunate, and we were able to save most of our livestock,” Haley told the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “We did get some losses here and there, but fences are a big loss for us at the moment. Now we’re dusting everything off, washing the ash away and getting after it.”

Rebuilding fences is a major task Panhandle ranchers are undertaking.

“We’re focusing on getting those fences up and operational so we can begin making decisions on bringing livestock back to our ranches or continue keeping them out on other pasture,” Haley said. “I know rain is going to dictate a lot of that. But going down into the summer as things change, producers are going to have to make some tough decisions on whether they can bring livestock back, liquidate them or take them to some leased pasture.”

While the road to recovery may be long, ranchers in the Panhandle are determined to rebuild. Support from their communities and donations from across the state and country have allowed them to start the rebuilding process.

AgriLife Extension reported the supply points received $4.4 million in commodity donations and $2.85 million in hay, feed and fencing supplies as of April 10.

“There’s still a lot of donations coming in,” Haley said. “Fencing, feed supplies and things like that. It gives you hope for this world that there’s people out there who really care for the industry.”

The supply points will continue to accept donations, especially for fencing supplies, through May 1, and AgriLife Extension will distribute those materials by June 1.

Farmers and ranchers with unreimbursed losses can also apply for assistance through Texas Farm Bureau’s Texas Panhandle Wildfire Relief Fund.

Assistance is available for livestock, feed, fences, equipment and cost of temporary pastures.

Applications will be accepted through May 31.

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