Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Farm Aid's Response to the Texas Drought

JoelWith the concert just around the corner, Farm Aid staff has been working in overdrive to pull together the best benefit event we can. But that doesn't mean our good work to keep family farmers on the land takes a back seat. Thanks to the generous support of a Farm Aid donor, we have some exciting news to share regarding recent emergency relief efforts in drought-affected Texas.

In early August, Farm Aid received a very generous gift earmarked to battle extreme drought in Texas. Yes, everything's big in Texas, but the three-year drought there has been a bone-drying monster. According to one report, "[n]early 80 of Texas' 254 counties are in 'extreme' or 'exceptional' drought, the worst possible levels on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's index. Though other states are experiencing drought, no counties in the continental U.S. outside Texas currently register worse than 'severe'." Central and south Texas are the hardest hit areas, with the drying up of Austin's spring-fed Barton Creek Pool typical of what's happening in those regions.

Set in motion by our supporter's generous gift, Farm Aid's response has been to organize on-the-ground help to disperse emergency funds to the hardest-hit farmers and ranchers. To this end, Farm Aid granted $35,000 to four Texas organizations. One of those Texas groups is Lutheran Social Services of the South, whose long record of cooperation with Farm Aid includes help last year after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike blasted into the Gulf Coast in early fall. Thirty thousand dollars in additional funds from the same donor will be used to support long-term drought mitigation and farm sustainability projects for Texas producers.

In addition, because we know that sustainable and organic producers often have little or no access to crop insurance and suffer disproportionately when natural disaster strikes, we sought and secured the cooperation of both The Sustainable Food Center and the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Finally, we are very pleased to include the Texas-Mexico Border Coalition in this relief effort. Their participation will ensure that Hispanic growers in drought-stricken counties along the border will receive relief.

These Texas groups have already begun to tap their producer networks to get the word out about the availability of Farm Aid drought relief funds. If you know a farmer or rancher in Texas who has been hard-hit by drought, urge them to contact one of these organizations to apply for assistance. Or have them call us at 1-800-FARM-AID or email farmhelp@farmaid.org and we will direct them to the help they need.

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