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Outpouring of help for fire victims makes me proud to be part of ag

TAGS: Disaster
FFA chapter members help rebuild a fence
HELPING HANDS: Members of the FFA chapter at Northern Heights High School in Lyon County worked part of their spring break vacation to help rebuild fence in Clark County. They are among dozens of FFA chapters across the state helping with the recovery effort.
Individuals, families, clubs and businesses all pitch in to help farmers and ranchers hit by wildfire.

This is one of those times that makes you proud to be part of the farm family.

That might seem strange because times are bad right now. Commodity prices are down. Cattle prices are down. Oil and gas prices are down. And the weather is not so great.

All of those things are part of the normal ups and downs that ag country lives with. But this year, there's something more, something devastating and heartbreaking and darn near spirit-breaking. This year, wildfires of almost unimaginable proportions have hit Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

In mere hours, they've done more damage than that attributed to droughts or floods over days or weeks or months. They've wiped out thousands of head of cattle, destroyed millions of dollars of infrastructure and left farm families to deal with something they seldom face — the emotional devastation of the loss of life of the livestock they love, right up to the point of having to euthanize the cows, horses and dogs that are part of their everyday existence.

But, as they always do when their neighbors are hurting, farmers are responding.

If you drive Highway 160 across southern Kansas, you'll see a stream of semis loaded with hay bales headed west into the heart of the worst damage. You'll see more trucks loaded with posts and wire and other fencing supplies.

Hundreds of volunteers have poured in to offer their time to help with the grim task of cleaning up carcasses and debris and the hard work of rebuilding fences, corrals and outbuildings. Dozens of FFA chapters sent work crews to build fences on their spring break vacation.

Agribusinesses have stepped up, too. Cargill donated $50,000 worth of fencing supplies. Monsanto kicked in $50,000 to the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation to help young and beginning farmers who sustained wildfire losses. Merck Animal Health donated $20,000 to help support communities impacted by the fires. The Kansas Livestock Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation, the Working Ranch Cowboys Association of Texas and Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation Disaster Relief Fund will each receive $5,000 to assist in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Individuals have poured their own money into donations to help with the relief effort.

Clark County rancher Stan Hazen put it well.

"A lot of these people are hurting financially themselves with the low grain prices," he said. "It is humbling to know they still find a way to give something to help."

It certainly is humbling.

I've been writing about Kansas agriculture for almost three decades. And I have never been more proud of our state's farmers and ranchers.

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