Supporting farmers during natural disasters

How to be our best when Mother Nature is at her worst.

In the past three weeks, we’ve seen hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose, wreak havoc on our nation, with Katia not far behind. While the Eastern Seaboard is frightfully coming to shore, it is fire season across the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, scorching the earth and lighting the sky with flames and clouds of smoke.  From Montana to New Mexico, the parched soil has taken a severe toll and is in desperate need of hydration following a dry summer. And though it’s almost hard to believe, in that same period of time, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake tragically hit our comrades along the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Though mainstream coverage often focuses on the structural damage of hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and all of the other atrocities caused by Mother Nature, the land and livestock underneath is frequently destroyed and can take years to rebirth.  Also overlooked is how much of that land is normally utilized as productive farmland and the many industries that support it.  For the 40 percent of the U.S. that is attributed to agriculture, of which could be affected by adverse circumstances at any time, much of that is rural landscape that lacks easy access to resources.

When tragedy strikes, as it has these last few weeks for cotton growers and cattle ranchers in Texas and  citrus growers in Florida, the most important things to consider are how we can continue to support our brands, clients and producers, when they are caught in the apex of a storm.

  • Humans and animals first. Humanity and livestock are the first priority on all farms and ranches. There are innumerable support mechanisms to work with state and local agencies to assist with rescue and recovery efforts for any emergency situation.  It’s imperative that we remain accessible to those outlets, provide them with any information they need, and allow them to do their jobs as efficiently as possible.
  • Prepare for and obtain a reliable spokesperson and maintain contact with our growers, producers and clients to the best of our abilities, so that we can get an accurate reading on their well-being and anything that they need.
  • Collaborate with national and local agencies that are allocating funds and resources to assist in rescue/rebuild efforts. These include local farm bureaus, state agricultural disaster programs, federal agricultural relief funds and federal agricultural education funds.
  • Utilize national media resources to recognize that certain rural areas might need additional support and reinforcement, due to loss of power and inability to connect to advanced technology.
  • Because the ag media is a trustworthy source for the industry, we need to manage relationships with them to monitor weather, conditions, and track the situation as it continues to unfold.
  • Heed caution to avoid exploitation. Take excellent care with how we may be report on or convey other’s lives and livelihoods.

The ag industry is not one to pity itself, but rather to pull itself up by its bootstraps and get to work.  As marketers, it is our responsibility to support our brands, growers, producers and clients by any means necessary.  Whether that means returning to the trenches, helping them rebuild or enabling them to make the best decisions, we lend our expertise and then find the appropriate outreach when our own has reached the end of its utility.

To contribute to the same spirit of unity and heroism that so many have demonstrated throughout these harrowing weeks, please contact the Texas STAR Fund and Feeding America.