In wildfire’s wake, the president’s silence is deafening

In wildfire’s wake, the president’s silence is deafening

27 March 2017

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USA —  We in rural America don’t ask for much. But sometimes, that’s exactly what we get.

Farmers and ranchers are resilient. They have to be, when they’ve spent generation after generation weathering storms, drought, low prices and now…wildfires.

The trouble is, now they need help. And President Donald Trump’s administration has not yet responded.

The Kansas Congressional delegation has responded. Within days, Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and Rep. Roger Marshall visited Clark County. On March 21, Sens. Roberts and Moran announced that USDA has scraped together $6 million for recovery efforts in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Yet, we’ve heard nothing from the Oval Office. Not a word about the disaster, not a peep about assistance. The most noteworthy news item coming from the Oval Office the last few weeks (aside from a meeting the president had with Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel) is that of the feud President Trump has with a rap star named “Snoop Dogg.”

Every definition

Government assistance is imperative as the High Plains rebuilds. In Kansas alone, more than 1,000 square miles of Kansas were scorched. Thousands of miles of barbed wire fence were destroyed, and countless animals—both wild and domesticated—perished. And that’s just on the ranches. The communities of Ransom and Sitka were overwhelmed by fire with homes and buildings destroyed. Hundreds of electric poles went up in flames, as did road signs, guardrails and more.

Truly, the affected region meets every definition of a disaster. Its impact is felt by a host of entities, not just farmers and ranchers. Electric cooperatives, city and county governments, fire districts—all share in the cost to rebuild.

But here in the heartland, where the majority of America’s bread and beef are produced, we’ve heard nothing from our president.

The sounds of silence

The deafening quiet is not isolated to Washington, D.C. Major media outlets are staying away in droves. Thus far, the Weather Channel is absent, as is CNN and Fox News (although the New York Times reported on fire aftermath recently). High Plains Journal readers feed the world, yet apparently their suffering is not meant to be seen or heard.

Folks here are hurting, and the cost to rebuild is extraordinary. There are government programs available, but many are cumbersome and inflexible. USDA rules seldom make a lot of sense, but the Environmental Quality Incentives Program rules requiring specific materials to be used for fencing are absurd. Moreover, assistance is a long time coming: those who rebuilt after last year’s nearby Anderson Creek Fire are just now getting reimbursement checks from the government.

Many of these producers did not have insurance on commercial cowherds. A regrettable mistake, sure, but carrying insurance on these animals is cost-prohibitive.

Ranchers and communities affected by wildfire are well into the rebuilding process. Our hearts are filled by the enormous generosity of friends and strangers who have provided hay, feed, fencing supplies and volunteer labor. It is an amazing show of solidarity by farmers and ranchers to their fellow farmers and ranchers, many of whom voted for Trump last November.

Rural America hates asking for help from the federal government. But right here, right now, it’s not too much to ask from the man in charge to recognize the problem and act.

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