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In Texas, Disaster Aid Is a Contentious Topic

Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
While some Texans made the trip to Capitol Hill last week to ask lawmakers to stay out of their affairs, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sought $50 million in federal disaster aid.

While many Texans have taken the aid that the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have provided, they still object to the idea that the federal government needs to swoop in and help them.

"We can take care of ourselves and our families better than [the government] can," said Maria Acosta, president of the Central Texas 9-12 Project, a tea party group with more than 1,000 members.

Still, Acosta welcomed the federal help with the fires as a sort of refund on federal taxes that Texans pay and that she opposes.

"We do feel like if we could send less money to Washington, there are things we could do for ourselves here and do it better," she said.

Jimmy Clark, executive director of the Southwest Council of Agribusiness, echoed the sentiment against government aid, saying: "The answer to all the problems out here is Mother Nature. All we need is rain."

The group's members include cotton farmers, whose drought insurance has helped them get through the dry season. But the insurance covers only costs, so few of them have been able to earn the income on which they depend.

Meanwhile, state cuts have downsized the agencies on which Texas farmers rely during such emergency situations.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has set up livestock supply points where farmers can pick up donated hay and round up lost cattle. But the nonprofit has had to eliminate other programs and
70 percent of its workforce because of the cuts.

"The funding presents a significant challenge," said Pete Gibbs, an associate director with the group.

In July, organic farmer Hardy Purvis pulled out of his local farmers market because he had too few crops to sell. The Buda Farmers' Market has since shut down for the season because of low supply.

Purvis has a kennel business that has helped cushion his losses, but he said he worries for those farmers with more land and more to lose.

"It's just been a disaster for the conventional farmers down here," he said. "I'm sure they're all clamoring for whatever relief they can get from the government."

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