Texas farmers are refusing a federal offer to pay for damage to property caused by illegal immigrants and narcotics trafficking, saying the aid will be conditional and won’t address fundamental issues.
A plan by the Texas Department of Agriculture to pay landowners who lost money (because more people were crossing the border into Texas) has been met with criticism and calls for President Biden to protect the border.
— Newsmax (@newsmax) February 28, 2022
Ranchers can now claim compensation for more than two dozen expenses, including fence repairs, animal deaths, drainage, and crop planting, through July 5 under the Environment Protection Incentive Program.
The service hasn’t said how much funding it will provide or how many people it anticipates applying, but the program’s intended parties aren’t all on board.
Skepticism and Worries
Six inhabitants of Kinney and Val Verde counties in south-central Texas shared their worries. All six refuse to file for a refund; they believe it will be too much work, don’t trust Washington, have paid for fixes, and aren’t eligible for reimbursement.
The southern boundary of John Paul and Donna Schuster’s ranch is 25 miles north of the frontier. Still, it has become a hotspot for undocumented immigrants trying to elude law enforcement by traveling via private ranches.
Due to constant trespassing, the Schusters had to replace fences, lose animals, and secure long-term water supplies. They forfeited their peace of mind in the 14 months since the border has been out of control, Donna Schuster said.
In January, Border Patrol stopped more illegal aliens in Del Rio than anywhere else along the border, a first in its 98-year history. While families frequently surrender to border agents, many adults attempt to flee on private property.
Almost all trespassers are men, some in concealment to escape detection.
The Schusters lead the Texas Farm Bureau Kinney County branch. When the Schusters found out last week the USDA was paying landowners in 33 Texas counties who lost money because of the border issue, they were happy to hear it.
The Schusters’ optimism dimmed immediately when they realized they were no longer qualified for reimbursement because the program only reimburses unrepaired damage.
NEW: I spoke with Texas ranchers while in Del Rio last week who said they will not accept money from the Biden administration for property damage they sustained as smugglers moved people and drugs through their land
— Anna Giaritelli (@Anna_Giaritelli) February 28, 2022
Page Day is a licensed outfitter who guides hunters on his 20,000-acre ranch in Del Rio. Last year’s repairs cost him close to $60,000. He discovered five new fence holes since Sunday, necessitating urgent repairs.
Day intends to seek reimbursement, but fears it will be taxable or a loan, even though the USDA says it is not. Day said the initiative’s vagueness made him hesitant to apply.
Billy Whaley of the Val Verde District disagrees. There are times when intruders leave gates open, allowing cattle to get out. Once they are found, they need to be kept away from tick fever, a parasite-borne disease that causes fever in cattle and high death rates.
Damages and Potential Harm
Ann and Byron Hodge own a multigenerational ranch in Del Rio. She feared there would be a catch to taking the money.
The Schusters constructed a new net wire fence in December 2020 that is continually being repaired, due to trespassers climbing and cutting it. A smuggler recently drove a truck through their fence and into the next paddock.
Unknown to the couple, another intruder broke into their water tank, taking 10,000 gallons of water, enough to last the cattle for six weeks. Because they utilize a solar pump, they have to buy a new tank and shift the animals to a new pasture.
Trespassers’ trash may not pose a risk, but it killed several Schuster’s calves, costing them a small fortune each. Donna Schuster checks the property daily, but does not take up trash until the next day if someone is still there. It means the cattle can eat it.
A middle-aged cow can cost up to $6,000, while a bull can cost up to $3,000. Heifers are more valuable since they can reproduce for up to 15 years. A calf costs $700.
According to John Paul Schuster, there is no way to compensate for the loss of security and comfort. He told Washington Examiner that state police just called to say they chased eight individuals on his land.
Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez ordered landowners to disclose any damage, break-ins, and run-ins to local police departments, not state troopers or Border Patrol; this way, the county may use the statistics to justify more sheriff’s deputies at the end of the year.