Storm Relief Org takes root to help farms: Texas Farm Resilience Collaborative brings financial relief from damage from winter storm Uri – News

Hat & Heart Farm in Fredericksburg after winter storm Uri (Courtesy of Carolina Mueller)

After Winter storm Uri Last February, frozen eggs, collapsed greenhouses and dead cattle wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of Texas farmers and ranchers – and it was difficult to get immediate relief. “We had farmers who went [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] for relief, and FEMA would say, ‘You are a business, not a residence,’ even though the farmers lived on the farm, ‘says Judith McGeary, founder of the Alliance for the Freedom of Farms and Ranches. “And then they go to FSA, the Farm Service Agency, and they were like, ‘But you’re not a farm as far as we’re concerned, because you’re too small, that’s a hobby.’ “

Texas Farm Resilience Collaborative, a new organization made up of many groups like McGeary’s across the state, formed to provide immediate financial aid, an interim measure like so many other mutual aid and private relief efforts during Uri, before slower institutions do not catch up. Caroline mueller, then president of the central Texas section of the National Coalition of Young Farmers (she is now part of the board of directors of Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association), led the effort with a GoFundMe, “and it snowballed from there. No pun intended.” Chipotle, Delivery to the farm, Agricultural aid, and others helped the collaboration reach its fundraising goal a week after the freeze, allowing the TFRC not to turn anyone away.

“From the start it was really important for us to make this a statewide disaster relief program,” says Mueller, “because there were other groups that were focused on the region of central Texas, which is much better endowed than other parts of the state. “Lowering enforcement barriers was a priority because crop insurance and other federal relief programs are not in place to support smallholder farming. “Larger farms have more access to federal capital and loans,” says Mueller, “and farms associated with a nonprofit have the opportunity to raise funds through other channels. We’re really trying to capture the people who are going to fall through the existing safety nets.

The collaborative has also prioritized historically underserved BIPOC farmers, for whom it is “difficult to access elements such as capital and risk management”, explains Phil wade ross, CEO of Texas Small Farmers & Ranchers Community Organization, which has a large number of black farmers in east Texas. “For our members who were able to actually receive the money, they were blown away. They were like, ‘Can we really cash this check? Is it really ours? It has created so much more confidence that we can build on. When the Texas Farmers and Ranchers CBO calls, they’re probably going to take that call because we’re not blowing smoke. “

Texas Farm Resilience Collaborative cannot replace the currently broken down disaster relief system available to small farms, says Mueller. The grants capped at $ 1,500, “so we’re not talking enough to cover the $ 30,000 in losses – it was actually just an emergency cash grant to help someone a month. to the other “.

What it can do is maintain reserves for the next disaster – there are still funds left from last year – and a centralized base on which to start building resilience and the farm and ranch community throughout. the state. “Resilience is not only longer term, but also much more multifaceted than disaster relief,” says McGeary. But “for the next time,” Mueller adds, “we’re in a position where we don’t have to create the whole process from scratch.”

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