Wildfires that ravaged nearly 4 million acres of Texas and the accompanying drought influenced policy adopted by Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) members as they wrapped up their 78th annual meeting in Corpus Christi.

“This drought has had a devastating impact on the farm and ranch families in Texas,” said TFB President Kenneth Dierschke, who was elected to his 10th term as president of the state’s largest farm organization. “Just as this drought will influence the operation of our farms and ranches for years to come, it has sparked policy to ensure we are prepared for dry times in the future.”

As Texas Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureaus’ reflected on donations totaling nearly $1.5 million to relief efforts for volunteer fire departments, voting delegates adopted a resolution to limit personal liability for volunteer fire departments and private citizens for any actions, on either public or private property, related to wildfires.

Delegates also supported a change in state and federal wildfire policy to require federal fire managers and incident commanders to coordinate with local fire departments and landowners when acting as first responders and contributing to firefighting efforts.

Addressing drought concerns, delegates said the selling of livestock, hay, grain, fiber or nut production should not result in the loss of agricultural valuation status for a period of three years following the end of a declared drought or natural disaster. They supported legislation requiring that land controlled by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and environmental/conservation groups be managed in a manner that improves water conservation and diminishes fire risks by reducing excess undergrowth and thinning forests.

They supported more aggressive programs to improve water conservation and water quality by removing and controlling non-beneficial/non-productive invasive plant and animal species that consume or impede water flow in streams, ponds, lakes and estuaries.

They supported continued programs of brush removal and riparian management that aids in flood control. They also supported intense research on beneficial plant species, animal species and agricultural practices that will conserve water and more efficient methods of applying water and creating more efficient dryland farming techniques.