Operation: Blizzard Benefit to distribute aid
Despite four feet of snow on the level and little to no assistance from the federal government, southeast Colorado’s December blizzard victims are at last going to receive some help. The support is from the Operation: Blizzard Benefit fundraiser that was put together by the Colorado Farm Bureau (CFB), Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), Colorado Livestock Association (CLA), Colorado Department of Agriculture, and the Colorado State Fair.
“We know that the devastating losses incurred by the agriculture community during the blizzards will be felt for years to come. The funds raised by Operation: Blizzard Benefit will by no means cover each and every loss, but it is our hope that the efforts will help lessen the financial burden that so many faced,” said Alan Foutz, president, CFB.
The fundraising efforts netted approximately $680,000 in total contributions and far exceeded organizer goals and expectations. Of the total, $225,000 was in the form of “in-kind” donations and another near $200,000 was in the form of hay and feed
contributions. The major fundraising event was a benefit concert held in Pueblo, CO, on March 18 featuring Michael Martin Murphey and many other talented artists.
More than $300,000 in cash was able to be distributed to the victims of the storm.
Organizers incurred approximately $50,000 in expenses to host the concert event, raise funds and deliver feed and hay to the affected area. Approximately 25 percent of the cash contributions will be retained to establish a permanent Colorado Agriculture Disaster Relief Fund to be jointly managed by CFB, CCA and CLA. The permanent relief fund will be able to continue to receive tax deductible donations and will make it easier to get farmers and rancher assistance in a more timely fashion when another catastrophic natural disaster strikes the Colorado ag community.
The Operation: Blizzard Benefit advisory committee received some 650 applications for aid. The 650 applicants estimated $22 million worth of un-reimbursed loses. The applicants also reported 3.4 million acres affected, 13,000 head of cattle lost, and 41,000 head of other livestock cost.
“Over $22 million in estimated losses from only 650 producer applicants is a staggering figure for a non-USDA declared disaster,” said Troy Bredenkamp, executive vice president, CFB. The state of Colorado and Gov. Ritter had requested federal disaster assistance for agriculture but it was ultimately denied by USDA.
The applicants with losses over $300,000 will receive the maximum amount decided on by the advisory committee, $5,000. Those with losses below $3,200 will receive $50. All other applicants will receive 1.61 percent of their estimated losses. Checks will be sent in Operation: Blizzard Benefit printed envelopes by no later than Wednesday, June 6 to all who applied and qualified their need.
“While the amount this effort raised is not enough considering the magnitude of the losses, no benefit would have been realized without the hard work of CFB, CCA, CLA, Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado State Fair,” said Mark Roeber, CCA president.
“The Operation: Blizzard Benefit organizers would like to thank all the businesses, organizations and individuals who contributed to this cause,” stated CLA President Kent Bamford.