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March 7, 2024

The Panhandle Fires: Outlook, Challenges, and Resources for Ranchers 

Information and resources for ranchers impacted by the Texas Panhandle fires. 

The Texas panhandle fires, also known as the Smokehouse Creek fires, are a devastating blow to many cattle ranchers throughout the state, with more than a million acres caught in the blazes. While the exact impact has yet to be determined, there are several questions AgAmerica would like to address as we navigate a path forward.  

How will the Texas panhandle fires impact the global cattle market?  

The Texas panhandle is home to roughly 85 percent of the 12 million cattle in the state. Reports indicate that the number of cattle lost is in the thousands, but the total loss is still unknown. That said, this event’s global impact will be much less noticeable than the local impact in the region. Global price trends for cattle in 2024 will remain relatively unchanged, according to AgAmerica’s agricultural economist and Texas native, Dr. Cliff Shelton.  

“Tighter supply for marketed cattle coupled with demand pressures domestically and abroad are expected to continue upward trends in beef prices, keeping them propped up through 2024 and into 2025. Although the Texas panhandle fires are certainly impacting that region with cattle loss estimated in the thousands, we don’t anticipate it moving the needle of global cattle prices one way or the other.” 

Dr. Cliff Shelton, Agricultural Economist at AgAmerica

What challenges will ranchers impacted by wildfires face even once the flames are contained?  

Although the global cattle market might remain relatively unchanged, local ranchers will be feeling the repercussions for years to come. Fire and smoke could trigger pregnant cows to give birth prematurely. Charred grassland means ranchers will need to find food for their surviving herds. Without assistance, this will significantly increase input costs for them at a time when they need capital to rebuild and prepare for spring. High cattle prices will make restocking herds expensive and high interest rates will make borrowing that capital even more of a sticker shock.  

What type of disaster relief assistance is available to ranchers impacted by the Texas panhandle fires?  

The agricultural community is a resilient one, and already hard at work to ensure Texas ranchers impacted by the Smokehouse Creek fire know they aren’t alone. Ranchers impacted by panhandle fires can find financial assistance through the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund. The STAR Fund provides support to agricultural producers affected by critical wildfire activity in Texas and reimburses qualified agricultural producers 50 percent of eligible expenses, up to $4,000. The funds are intended to assist in rebuilding fences, restoring operations, and covering other agricultural disaster relief costs needed to restart agricultural operations.  

Ranchers seeking disaster relief can also find more information about federal assistance on the Texas Farm Bureau website. Federal programs, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) can help with up to 75 percent of the market value loss for each head of cattle. While these programs certainly help ranchers recover immediate financial loss, it will take time and resources for these operations to return to full operating capacity.  

How can I support those who have been affected by the Panhandle fires?  

For those who have not been directly affected by the recent fires but want to help, here are several different ways to show your support for those who have.  

  • Donate: Visit Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Resource Page to make a donation.  
  • Volunteer: Contribute your time and specialized skills to assist in things like repairing damage, tending to livestock, mental health services, and more.  
  • Advocate: Show your support for policies and resources that help with disaster preparedness, fire prevention, and recovery assistance for rural communities and agriculture. 
  • Shop local: Buy agricultural products from affected ranchers to help sustain their livelihoods and communities through this difficult time. 

AgAmerica Stands with Texas Ranchers 

In light of these recent events, AgAmerica is working with clients affected by the Panhandle fires to provide support and extend resources to the Texas ranching community. If you or someone you know has been affected by the Smokehouse Creek fire, please contact us and let us know how we can assist.  

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