Iowans help with wildlife relief efforts
By Kristin Danley-Greiner
Producers have been known to rally around each other when a fellow farmer is ill or injured at harvest time and planting, when there’s been a death in the family and during natural disasters.
So when wildfires ravaged Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and southern Colorado recently, killing thousands of cattle, destroying 1.5 million acres of pasture ground, homes and miles upon miles of fencing, Iowa farmers rallied to help.
Groups of farmers across the state pooled together their resources to send semi trucks and trailers full of hay and fencing supplies to the affected states.
Nancy Brown, fire relief coordinator for the Kansas Farm Bureau, said that Iowans have been “incredibly generous.”
Among the items they’ve sent include cash, hay and fencing supplies. Cattle producers from Winneshiek, Fayette, Clayton and Allamakee counties combined efforts to send fencing materials.
Some have even driven hundreds of miles to tear out and rebuild fencing.
“We are so very grateful,” Brown said. “We’ve had individuals, groups of farmers, ag groups and businesses volunteer time, labor and money to help. Some are helping with general debris removal, especially since a lot of homes were burned.”
Dunlap Livestock Auctions, in western Iowa, repeatedly auctioned off a steer until every person in the sale barn had participated. That steer, donated by the auction house, netted $50,000 for the wildfire victims.
Jon Schaben, whose family owns the business, said the 750-pound steer hit five figures in just 20 minutes.
“We had learned that this type of fundraiser was being done in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado, so we did it, too,” Schaben said. “We’d done a similar fundraiser in the past for the (American) Red Cross for tsunami relief efforts and for Hurricane Katrina.
“This was a way for us to show we care and send them cash,” he added. “The first person bought it, then donated it back, then another person bought it, then donated it back, then after every person in the room did that, we then sold the calf at true market value.”
Schaben said they had hoped to raise $10,000. When they hit $20,000, they thought it was incredible. Once they reached $30,000 in commitments an hour before the auction began, they realized the results would be astounding.
“We knew the auction was going to be successful, but we didn’t know just how successful it would be,” he said.
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association held an online auction April 7 after they were approached by DreamDirt.com, in Iowa, to have one together.
JanLee Rowlett, government and regulatory affairs manager for the ICA, said donations gathered for the auction ranged from a bull to beef products to an African safari, cattle-themed quilts and artwork.
“We had a really wide variety of things,” she said. “It ended up raising $50,000 between purchases and cash pledges. It was a big success.”
The ICA had numerous producer-members asking how they could help. Rowlett said several county groups organized their own fundraisers, too.
“There has been so much generosity come from our cattle producers, but to be honest, we expect this out of Iowans,” Rowlett said. “We’ve even received donations come in from people as far away as Alaska.”
To date, Brown said producers still need fencing and cash donations to purchase fencing and livestock waterers.
She also said a number of people are calling local farm supply stores in those four states and purchasing items there at that store with their credit cards, then the materials are being picked up and delivered on site.
“Iowans are helping our farmers and our communities both rebuild,” Brown said. “We are so grateful.”
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