NRCS Staff Help Producers in North Alabama With Fencing Supplies
By Fay Garner, Public Affairs Specialist | NRCS State Office, Auburn, AL
Fencing supplies delivered to producers. l-r: (on ground) John Sudduth, Don Allison, and Carl Godsey (all members of ALFA and the Winston Co. Cattlemen’s Association), (on trailer) Allen Owens (member of Winston Cattleman Association) and NRCS DC Wade Hill (who coordinated the effort), distributed the fencing supplies to tornado victims in Marion, Franklin, and Lawrence Counties.
NRCS personnel in north Alabama were very involved in helping producers sort out the damages from the tornados that struck the state on April 27, 2011. Some of the tasks were hard on their emotions as they surveyed the damage, but one task uplifted their spirits as they helped out their neighbors.
Everyone knew about the immediate need of the stricken people, businesses, and life-threatening emergency work, but not much time was available to think of cattlemen that had downed fences and their herd scattered by the storm. But there were people elsewhere looking out for them.
Private donations, including $12,000 from the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, and $4,000 from the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) allowed 24 producers to enough obtain posts and wire to build one-fourth mile of fencing to secure herds scattered by the storm.
Wade Hill, NRCS District Conservationist (DC) in Marion and Winston Counties was contacted by the Winston County Cattlemen’s Association. He was told that with donations they had purchased 3,120 metal T-posts, and 96 rolls of barbed wire to give to area producers. They asked Wade to work out the logistics of the deliveries. DCs Kathy Gotcher in Lawrence County and Matt Copeland in Franklin County identified the most heavily impacted areas to receive the supplies.
NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Pam Skidmore (l) helps an area producer load supplies.
When the materials arrived, Wade took his personal gooseneck trailer and loaded all the post and wire (32,000 pounds), and headed out to make deliveries. Attempting to haul all the materials on one trailer turned out to be a mistake. After four tire blowouts and subsequent repairs, the group finally made it, three hours late, to their first stop in Hackleburg. The producers did not seem to mind the delay. They were gathered with pickups and trailers to receive the materials needed to start replacing their downed fences. Other stops were made in Russellville and Moulton.
Along with Wade, Kathy, and Matt; John Sudduth, SWCS District Supervisor and a member of the Winston County Cattlemen’s Association; Mike Henshaw, the Winston County Extension System Agent; and NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Pam Skidmore, assisted in the pickup and delivery of the materials.
Even though they did not receive enough supplies to repair all of their fencing, producers were very grateful for what they received. Until that day, many of them have seen nothing but despair and destruction and some of the farmers had lost everything to the storms.
Since then, emergency NRCS funds have been made available to farmers and ranchers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, but everyone felt this first response effort made a real difference. NRCS personnel and others felt maybe they passed around a little hope that day.