TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE RESPONDS TO HURRICANE HARVEY


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A herd of cows stand on high ground to get out of the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters near East Columbia, Texas August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Major flooding and devastating crop losses among damages caused by historic storm, fuel prices expected to rise

AUSTIN – Today, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller expressed his condolences to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and reinforced the message of support through various programs offered by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

“I want to let all Texans along the coast and those experiencing flooding in Central Texas to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers,” Commissioner Miller said. “God’s hand was evident in the minimal loss of human life as Hurricane Harvey made landfall last weekend, and I pray that He will continue to show us favor as our fellow Texans struggle against massive flooding throughout the area.”   In a recent update, the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association said crop losses may be as high as $150 million, but this number is likely to change as the flooding subsides and producers can get a more accurate estimate of damage.

Cotton farmers in the Upper Coastal Bend were some of the hardest-hit ag producers, with hundreds of cotton modules blown apart by gale-force winds and many more lying wet in fields and at gin yards. 13 of the 50 counties declared disaster areas by Governor Abbott are cotton-producing areas.   Texas rice producers had already harvested around 75 percent of this year’s crops, but storage bins may have undergone extensive wind and water damage, leading to more crop losses. Wheat, soybean and corn exports all ground to a halt late last week as Texas ports prepared for the oncoming hurricane. Texas is responsible for exporting almost one-fourth of the nation’s wheat and a significant portion of U.S. corn and soybeans.

Texas is also home to one-third of U.S. oil refineries, so fuel prices are expected to rise over the next few weeks while those refineries remain offline. Reports of price-gouging at the pump should be directed to the consumer protection division of the Texas Attorney General. Commissioner Miller does want to remind all Texans, however, that TDA oversees fuel quality complaints, so if you suspect you have received tainted fuel as a result of water or debris in the facility’s storage tank or fuel pump lines, please contact TDA immediately at 1-800-TELL-TDA so we may begin an inspection of the facility as soon as possible.

There are no numbers available on loss of livestock, but we expect that to change as flood waters recede and people are able to return to their properties and begin assessing damages. The Texas Animal Health Commission’s (TAHC) Animal Response Operation Coordination Center has established a Hurricane Harvey Hotline at 512-719-0799 for those wishing to volunteer, donate shelter or supplies for animals, or report both live and dead animals they may call this number for assistance.

“There have been a lot of wonderful stories going around on social media of people banding together to help save one another’s livestock,” Commissioner Miller said. “I want to send a great big thank you to these folks for doing things the Texas way, which is to be a great neighbor and help those in need. You’re all true Texans and you’re all appreciated immensely.”

For folks looking to buy, sell or donate hay, TDA also offers the Hay Hotline. Those interested may also call 512-463-9360 for more information on the Hay Hotline*.

Responsible for implementing federal school nutrition programs in Texas, TDA has also mobilized food assets across the state and stands ready to support volunteer organizations like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. USDA food managed by TDA is stationed in seven warehouses across the state and can be provided to those organizations when requested. Commissioner Miller has also directed staff to request waivers to allow schools to feed any student affected by the hurricane, either in the path or the storm or as a refugee elsewhere, for free.

TDA also approved a one-time blanket extension of the cotton stalk destruction deadline to Sept. 15, 2017 for all of Zone 2, Area 2, which consists of the northern portion of Kenedy County and all of Jim Wells, Kleberg, Nueces Counties.

Finally, Commissioner Miller has also activated the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund (STAR Fund) to assist farmers and ranchers affected by Hurricane Harvey.  As the area moves into the recovery phase, Texas ag producers in the area will need a little help getting back on their feet, and that’s where the STAR Fund comes in. Ag producers in all 54 counties declared disaster areas by Governor Abbott are eligible to apply for cost-matching funds to help get operations back up and running in the wake of this catastrophic natural disaster. For more information on the STAR Fund or to donate to help out a fellow Texan, please visit our STAR Fund webpage.   For the latest on TDA response to this disaster, please follow us on social media and visit our website at www.texasagriculture.gov.


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