LINCOLN, NEB. – “We looked around and didn’t know where to start. The devastation was so overwhelming, but the check we received from the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund helped us take the first step and know that we are not alone. We are so grateful,” said Tom and Fran Geisler, who farm and raise cattle near Hooper.
“The kindness and generosity of people across Nebraska and the United States is humbling,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president. “More than $2 million has been collected for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund, with 100 percent of funds raised going to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in need of assistance,” said Nelson.
According to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 104 cities, 81 counties, and five tribal areas have had emergency declarations. The cost of the damage by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is estimated at $440 million in crop losses; and $400 million in cattle losses. Other estimates include $449 million in damages to roads, levees, and other infrastructure across the state.
“For us to continue to rebuild our farms, ranches, and rural communities, it will take patience and perseverance to get through the magnitude of the loss and destruction,” said Nelson. “While the response to this fund has been overwhelming, we have seen requests for aid come into the Disaster Relief Fund totaling more than what we currently have in the fund. The amount we have raised doesn’t meet the assistance already requested, and additional applications are received each day.”
The fund was established at the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, so donations meet the criteria for qualified charitable contributions for tax purposes.
“When we first started the fund, the immediate need in rural areas was water, food, shelter, and medicine for people and animals,” said Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.
“As health and safety situations stabilize, other needs have emerged, including clearing flood debris from pastures, fields, and homes; rebuilding fences to protect livestock; paying for extra fuel to deliver hay to stranded cattle; and helping restore fresh water to residents and animals in places like Boyd County,” said Schafer.
At Chance Ridge near Elkhorn, funds from the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund have been used to buy fuel, food, and lodging for those volunteering to help with clean up. “We serve as a delivery hub for hay and other supplies,” said Autumn Rock of Chance Ridge Event Center. “Because of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund, we were able to help more than 150 farmers from across the state and keep more than 10-thousand head of cattle alive. This fund is truly making a difference.”
The need for assistance, both short term and long term, continues to grow. Each day there are different requests, and the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund stands ready to help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
“The repairs and recovery from this disaster will take a huge amount of resources. The next step is to provide support for intermediate and long-term recovery efforts in areas where there are gaps in availability of insurance coverage and government assistance,” said Nelson.
“We continue to seek financial donations to meet the growing aid requests coming into the Disaster Relief Fund,” said Schafer. “Every dollar counts. When we all give, we come together as one community, making Nebraska stronger.”
To donate, apply for aid, or access other disaster assistance resources, visit www.nefb.org/disaster.