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Sen. Cruz, Rep. Jackson push legislation to help ranchers who lose livestock in disasters

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After the largest wildfire in the state’s history, two Texas Republicans in Congress are proposing a bill that would expand financial assistance to ranchers who lose pregnant cattle in natural disasters.

Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Ronny Jackson introduced a bill Tuesday that would expand federal aid through the Livestock Indemnity Program for unborn livestock lost. If passed, it could help Texas ranchers who lost more than 15,000 cattle in this year’s devastating Panhandle wildfires.

Currently the Secretary of Agriculture pays livestock producers whose animals die in natural disasters, severe weather, disease or even attacks by other certain animals. The payments usually equate to around 75% of the national average price per animal, but it does not apply to unborn livestock if the deceased animal was pregnant.

Craig Cowden, a rancher in Pampa, was more lucky than others during the wildfires that torched more than a million acres in the Texas Panhandle. While he did not lose livestock this time, he has in previous wildfires.

“I think the bill can be a great help,” Cowden said. “What a lot of people don’t understand is those cows and those unborn calves are the production and the future revenue stream for our businesses…we wouldn’t be reimbursed for the calf that was lost, even if it was a day from being born.”

The destruction of grazing land also poses significant financial challenges to ranchers like Cowden. He said he is having to move all of his cattle to other parts of Texas or out of state, estimating about 98% of his land was destroyed.

The Texas House Committee that investigated the fires predicts it will take three to five years for pastures to recover fully.

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