Texas faces at least $21 million in wildfire damages

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - Texas ranchers are facing at least $21 million in agricultural damages from wildfires that blackened more than 750 square miles in the Texas Panhandle last week.

Damages last week included $6.1 million in lost pastureland; $6.1 million in lost or damaged fencing; $3.8 million in lost buildings; $4 million in livestock deaths; and $1 million for emergency hay and feed, economist Steve Amosson told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/2mN9ZcX ).

"There are a lot of losses and we just don't know all of them at this time," he said. "We're still dealing with chaos. They're still trying to find cattle."

Dry grasses, low humidity levels and high winds all contributed to the March 6 wildfires, said Amarillo-based National Weather Service forecaster Edward Andrade.

Amosson said long term effects will depend on whether the remaining 13,000 to 14,000 cattle will be fed with reduced grazing land. Some cattle may also suffer fire-related health issues, such as smoke inhalation.

The Texas Animal Health Commission determined Wednesday that 2,500 head of cattle and 1,900 swine were lost to the Texas fires.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared an emergency in six counties.

Abbott and the governors of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas asked U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Young to halt grazing restrictions on federal lands to give surviving cattle more places to feed.

"Emergency grazing authorization would provide immediate relief to livestock producers," Abbott said.

In a statement released on Thursday, Abbott's office announced that the United States Department of Agriculture has made critical resources available for those affected.

Those services include the Emergency Conservation Program, which provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.


Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com