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Kansas hit by wildfires; Tornadoes tear up Kentucky

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Here are ways to help the rural families who were impacted by recent extreme weather events in Kentucky and Kansas.

December is supposed to be a month for Christmas cheer and holiday parties, but the merriment has come to an abrupt halt in parts of the country where crazy, unprecedented weather events have damaged homes, destroyed farms, and devastated communities.

In western Kentucky, 58 people were killed after tornadoes and ripped through the rural community. In addition to the loss of life, many farms were impacted. At a time when food prices are already rising and supply chain disruptions have become the norm, this is certainly a concern for producers and consumers alike.

“We were already seeing, before the tornado, rising costs of food at the grocery store, and we simply do not know yet how it will effect cost at this point,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, in a recent media interview. “But Kentucky is one of the leading poultry states ... and even a slight delay will have an impact. Bottom line is the damage to Kentucky agriculture is simply unfathomable at this point, we’re still trying to turn chaos into order.”

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) and the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation have joined forces to raise funds and resources for agricultural-related recovery efforts for farmers affected by the widespread and devastating storms on December 10-11, 2021.

The Kentucky Agriculture Relief Fund is a cash donation portal managed by the Kentucky Farm Bureau Education Foundation. The donations will be used to support farmers and agribusinesses in the affected areas. Click here to donate to this fundraiser.

Meanwhile in Kansas, wildfires were sparked and fueled by extreme winds and drought-like conditions. Nearly 400,000 acres were ravaged by the flames, and two deaths have been reported.

According to ABC News, “Two men have died from injuries suffered in wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres across Kansas this week, authorities reported.

“Richard Shimanek, 84, a farmer and rancher who lived near Leoti, died Thursday night at a hospital in Denver, Leoti Mayor and Fire Chief Charlie Hughes said. He was outside his home trying to fight the fire Wednesday when he fell and couldn't get up.

“The Ellis County sheriff's office said Friday that the remains of Derrick Kelley, 36, were found near his burned vehicle in a rural area of the county. The coroner identified the remains, the sheriff's office said.

“Kelley was last seen in Hays on Wednesday, shortly before his fiancee reported him missing. The sheriff's office said he was believed to be driving on county roads toward Natoma.

“Both men were killed in wildfires that erupted Wednesday in western and central Kansas, fueled by dry conditions and winds up to 90 mph (145 kph). The Kansas Forest Service said 625 square miles (1,620 square kilometers) burned in 11 counties in western Kansas, with smaller fires in other counties.”

I have read horrifying stories of farm houses being completely lost in the fires, livestock dead throughout the impacted pastures, and communities rallying together to help those who need places to stay, food to eat, clothes to wear, and feed for their livestock.

For a list of ways you can support those most impacted by these wildfires, KWCH has compiled some fundraisers that are currently active, which you can read here.

My heart breaks for those impacted by these unexpected weather events, and I send my deepest sympathies and prayers to those who have experienced loss of life, their homes, and their livelihoods as a result of these storms.

This Christmas season, I urge everyone who is able to join me in assisting those in need. It may be folks in these rural communities or back at home in your own area. It’s such a harsh reminder that life is short, and we often take our blessings for granted.

There are so many people hurting right now, but please know you have an agricultural community that will rally around you in your time of need. We are one big family, and we must stick together! Stay safe and well, my friends.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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