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Deadline for ‘Operation New Fences’ nears
AUSTIN -- With more than 3 million acres burned, 233 Texas counties under burn bans, 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 of Texas Ag Relief (STAR) Fund, according to a June 29 Texas Department of Agriculture press release.
“Our farmers and ranchers are losing their livelihoods, and ultimately, all Americans will suffer through increased food prices,” Staples said. “Texans help their neighbors in need, and now is the time to assist families in rebuilding their lives and the farming and ranching operations on which we all rely.”
To start the rebuilding effort, the 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 Staples called “Operation New Fences.” McCoy’s Building Supply generously donated the first $20,000.
Additionally, Valero Energy Corp. donated $10,000. Thanks to these generous contributions and donations from Texans across the state, those approved for STAR Fund assistance may be awarded a voucher for fencing supplies worth up to $500 (exact voucher values will be determined based on the number of eligible producers applying).
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 and submit the Emergency Conservation Program 848A form with their application. Applications will also be available at local AgriLife Extension offices in counties that are eligible for emergency funding. All applications must be mailed to the Texas Department of Agriculture and postmarked by Friday, July 15.
Wildfires are still burning in Texas, and the impact to ranchers is not over. A second round of funding is planned and needed in the fall to help additional farmers and ranchers impacted by ongoing 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.
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