U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced the Wildfire Regulatory Relief Act today, key legislation that would improve federal wildfire disaster response, specifically for the agricultural community. This bipartisan bill addresses the unique concerns farmers, ranchers and rural communities face after a wildfire.
“As Oklahomans experienced firsthand last March, wildfires can have a devastating impact,” Inhofe said. “Current disaster response must do a better job considering the unique needs of rural communities when it comes to recovery efforts. I visited Woodward during the fires and saw for myself—hundreds of thousands of acres of farms and ranches were destroyed. Unfortunately, the disaster response assistance available for those suffering was hamstrung by unnecessary regulations. Banks were prevented from lending more money to their customers to recover, and federal aid was slow and insufficient because of bureaucratic red tape. This new legislation will address that. By updating FEMA’s disaster assessments to include the damaged property of farmers and ranchers, ensuring federal regulations do not limit community recovery efforts through local banks, and improving coordination among emergency services, we can better support farmers and ranchers as they rebuild their livelihood.”
“New Mexicans know too well the frequent and increasingly severe toll that wildfires can take on our state and on peoples’ livelihoods,” Udall said. “When New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers work to recover after a damaging wildfire, it is critical that the federal government provides flexibility and needed support — not red tape. As we brace for increasingly unpredictable and intense wildfires in New Mexico and across the West in the coming years, we need to make sure that we’re giving rural communities and farmers and ranchers the unique and targeted resources they need to get back on their feet.”
The Wildfire Regulatory Relief Act is supported by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the Oklahoma Bankers Association and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau:
“Ranchers in Western Oklahoma were severely impacted by the wildfires earlier this year,” said Weston Givens, President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. “Senator Inhofe worked immediately to provide information and resources to individuals and communities that needed to rebuild. As we enter wildfire season, rather than accepting the red tape and hurdles our members faced going through the disaster relief process—Senator Inhofe is taking action to improve the process for rural communities in Oklahoma and across the country. We appreciate his continued leadership on these efforts.”
“As anchor institutions in rural communities across Oklahoma, community banks are directly engaged in helping individuals and rural communities recover from natural disasters, including devastating wildfires,” said David Cook, President and CEO of the Bank of Laverne. “The legislation introduced by Senator Inhofe will empower community banks to continue to play a key role in revitalizing their communities.”
“Oklahoma Farm Bureau proudly stood by the farmers, ranchers and rural residents who were devastated by wildfires in the Oklahoma Panhandle earlier this year,” said Rodd Moesel, President of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. “However, efforts to rebuild in those communities have been hindered by bureaucratic red tape and other significant hurdles. With this legislation, Senator Inhofe is working to improve the recovery process for farmers, ranchers and rural communities both in Oklahoma and across the country. We appreciate his leadership on these efforts.”
In March of this year, devastating wildfires in northwest Oklahoma destroyed hundreds of miles of fencing and other farming and ranching equipment. The Wildfire Regulatory Relief Act would:
- Allow grazing on CRP lands when a governor declares a state emergency, not just for drought and flooding conditions.
- Improve disaster assessments by requiring FEMA to account for all damage, including agricultural operations, like fence line.
- Encourage state-federal collaboration by making grants available to states that strengthen state-wide collaboration and communication.
- Provide regulatory relief for community banks, such as flexible loan teams and reporting requirements so banks can better facilitate recovery efforts in their communities