PHOTOS: Tour of Gering-Fort Laramie Canal Breach site

Equipment and materials outside the west entrance to Tunnel 2 of the Gering/Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal.

SCOTTSBLUFF — Fundraising efforts have raised more than $100,000 in support of farmers impacted by a stoppage of irrigation water supply over the summer.

Once pledges are received, an account established for donations will exceed the $100,000 mark, according to Hod Kosman, CEO of Platte Valley Companies. PVC along with the Oregon Trail Community Foundation established the fund in an effort to help ease the financial burden on growers.

That total does not include any proceeds from a benefit concert dubbed “Farmer Strong,” which will feature Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band and Ned LeDoux at Five Rocks Amphitheater Oct. 5. 21st Century Equipment is underwriting both bands and will donate 100% of the ticket proceeds to the Farmer Strong Disaster Relief Fund. Tickets are $50 for the front reserved seating, $35 for the next level reserved seating, and $25 for general admission. Tickets are available at 21stCenturyEquipment.com, KNEB.com and KGOSKERM.com.

“We’re all in this together,” Kosman said. “The agriculture community is a big part of our world here. ... We knew that people would want to give, it was just a matter of facilitating how and where and when they could do it.”

Kosman said he was very pleased with the funds raised so far, noting that it requires quite a number of individual donations when you figure that there have been a few large donations, but much of the total has come in $30-50 at a time.

Oregon Trail Community Foundation Executive Director Cathy McDaniel said the donations reflect how important agriculture is to the citizens and businesses of the community. She said it reflects a recognition of how difficult farming and ranching is and the appreciation for those in the industry.

“People know that agriculture is the lifeblood of our community,” McDaniel said. “The farmers around here take care of us every day, and we need to take care of them as well.”

PVC’s involvement was a natural fit, Kosman said, noting that the bank’s roots trace back to the Pathfinder Dam’s establishment in 1909.

“This Valley went from 2,400 acres of irrigated land to 230,000 acres,” he said. “We’re all a part of the irrigation system.”

A determination is still to come on how the funds will be distributed with information still to come about what kind of permanent fix will be coming.

“The intent of the major donors from the start is that the funds will go to the farmers directly to help them offset some of their repairs and some of their expenses for next year,” Kosman said.

Donations may be dropped off at the Oregon Trail Community Foundation office in the Railway Office Plaza in Scottsbluff or at any Platte Valley Bank branch in Wyoming and Nebraska. Donations may also be made online at otcf.org or pvbank.com/give.

The July 17 collapse of a 2,200-foot-long tunnel caused a canal breach, forcing the Bureau of Reclamation to shut down delivery of irrigation water. The situation left approximately 107,000 acres of land in Wyoming and Nebraska served by the Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Districts and the Wright and Murphy Ditch Company without a water source for nearly six weeks. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced in August that the determination was made that the tunnel collapse was caused by unusually high precipitation. Because the collapse can be attributed to a natural cause, it is an insurable event for producers affected by the irrigation disruption.

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Reporter

Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at mark.mccarthy@starherald.com.

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