By Brett Begemann, Monsanto President and Chief Operating Officer
Having spent my life in agriculture, one of the things I love about people in my field is our ability to come together when there’s a need, such as helping a neighbor harvest a crop or pitching in to move livestock. There’s a need right now—there are ranchers and farmers in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas suffering from losses because of wildfires that occurred this month.
These wildfires spread so fast—moving 40 miles per hour according to some reports—that farmers and ranchers could not move fast enough to protect their livestock, land, crops and homes from the fires. And some ranchers, in trying to protect their livestock, sadly lost their lives in the fires.
The damage is widespread. Thousands of cattle, including new calves, burned in the fire. It will take years to rebuild herds. Fences were destroyed as well. By some estimates, it costs $10,000 per mile of fence. Hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland—which would have been used as feed for the cattle this spring and summer—also burned. It will take several months for that grass to regrow—and that’s depending if it rains.
As someone who grew up raising cattle in western Missouri, I can sympathize with the ranchers who lost livestock. Raising livestock is hard but rewarding work. From calving to weaning, a special bond is formed between rancher and animal. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see your herd, your pasture and your fences, and maybe even your home, wiped away in a matter of minutes.
It will take a long time before everything is back to “normal” for the farmers, ranchers and citizens of these areas. But as I watched the stories of the people affected by the fire and those who helped unfold on social media, I drew inspiration. Because, as someone who was raised in rural America and still farms today, I know the fabric of rural life and farming binds us together. When someone is in need, farmers and ranchers and rural towns pitch in to help. Whether you are a row crop or livestock farmer, we are in this together.
It was amazing to watch on social media how farmers from throughout the Midwest came together to pool their resources and send help to the Great Plains. I watched several people share videos of loads of hay and fencing supplies being delivered from farmers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri and all over the Midwest.
And they did this for free, because they care.
They made a selfless choice to deliver their excess supplies of hay so that their agriculture friends in another part of the country would have feed for the animals that survived. They volunteered their time, money and resources to support others.
As I watched this unfold online, I thought, “What can Monsanto do to help?” After all, some of these farmers and ranchers are our customers.
Today, Monsanto announced it is donating $50,000 to each of the state farm bureaus of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, for a total of $200,000. The state bureaus will then be able to choose how best to use the donations. Our efforts are small compared with the hard work and dedication others have contributed so far to the efforts to rebuild the areas. These efforts will take a long time. We aim to remain committed to working with the farm bureaus, other organizations and people in the affected region to be there through the long haul.
Agriculture has seen its share of tough and challenging times. The tragedies of the Great Plains wildfires are now in the history books as another one of those times. But, as with the previous challenging experiences, we know that rural America always comes through to help. That’s what we do.
If you haven’t seen the news or social media reports of the wildfires in the Great Plains states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, I encourage you to visit these sites to learn more and contribute, if you are so inclined.