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Agricultural losses in Panhandle wildfires top $123 million

Preliminary estimates show wildfires that burned across the Panhandle earlier this year resulted in $123 million in agricultural losses, making it the costliest on record.

The losses include more than 12,000 cattle deaths, lost grazing values and ranch infrastructure costs, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists who compiled the data.

“The fires were devastating to agriculture, and the initial estimates really illustrate that,” said Tracy Tomascik, Texas Farm Bureau associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities. “Recovery efforts are underway and off to a great start, but it’s a long path getting back to normal conditions for those impacted.”

The Panhandle wildfires started burning Feb. 26 and continued through March, destroying over 1.2 million acres, making it the largest wildfire in Texas history and one of the largest in the nation.

Agricultural losses

The highest category of losses at $68.7 million was to ranch infrastructure, fences, barns, corrals and well pump motors and windmills, along with stocks of hay and feed.

Cattle losses due to the fires totaled $27 million. The livestock estimates include both cows and estimated losses to the season’s calf crop.

An additional $1 million in miscellaneous costs include disposing of deceased animals and forced marketing losses.

Lost long-term grazing in fire damaged pastures and range and short-term emergency feeding is estimated to cost $26 million.

Repairing and rebuilding fences also will be a considerable cost for farmers and ranchers.

“What we will see is a significant increase in replacement costs for fencing due to the increase in materials cost,” said DeDe Jones, AgriLife Extension risk management specialist in Amarillo. “Fence rebuilding costs are in the range of $3 per foot to $4 per foot depending on the type of fencing and the type of country.”

The preliminary estimates were calculated from February through the middle of March. AgriLife Extension economists noted the loss estimates could climb higher due to ongoing fire threats this spring.

Disaster assistance

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

Unreimbursed losses include, but are not limited to, livestock, feed, fences and equipment. Unreimbursed additional expenses such as the cost of temporary pastures will also be considered.

Applications must be submitted by May 31.

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