Texas is ‘officially’ a disaster

By Amanda Hill

USDA has confirmed what Texas farmers and ranchers have known for a long, long time… Texas is a disaster.

On Tuesday, the USDA declared the entire state of Texas a natural disaster area. Of 254 drought-stricken Texas counties, 213 were named “primary” natural disaster areas, and the remaining 41 contiguous counties also qualify for emergency assistance.

With more than 3 million acres burned, crops destroyed and animals suffering—it’s about time.

Don’t get me wrong. We in agriculture appreciate that the federal government has recognized the horrible condition of our state with a formal declaration. Texans have been suffering through this drought for a long time now. Some haven’t seen significant rainfall since last August, almost a full year ago. We’ll gladly take the USDA’s official declaration. Unfortunately, it won’t be the silver bullet.

I actually talked with a few Central Texas farmers yesterday about the low-interest emergency loans that the USDA offers through the disaster relief program. To be honest, I fully expected them to say, “Of course I’m applying. We need all the help we can get.”

That wasn’t exactly their response.

Each farmer said they’ve been down this road before with little to no success. One of them said he has applied for a USDA loan before, and it all but ruined his credit.

The truth is these loans are just that—loans. If they qualify, Texas farmers and ranchers will get a low-interest loan from the government, which must be paid back based on the terms of the agreement. Not exactly a quick fix, but more of a Band-Aid that must be ripped off later.

Loans for the gigantic losses we’re looking at would be impractical. Many suspect this drought may top the 2006 losses of $4.1 billion, the worst on record. Carrying that level of debt would collectively cripple Texas farm and ranch operations for years to come, if they could even survive.

In the end, the only “emergency assistance” that will lift the oppressive weight of this historic drought will be declared by One bigger than any of us.

Texas is a disaster right now. But until God chooses to send us rain, farmers and ranchers will pray, hope and wait.

Amanda Hill

Associate Editor of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
Amanda Hill aspires to be as good a cook as her momma and grandmothers, but she still has a long way to go. All attempts—good and bad—are tested by her patient and kind husband, who rarely gives a negative review. Contact Amanda at ahill@txfb.org or follow Amanda on Twitter.

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