Winter Storm Uri

In February 2021, a massive winter storm impacted much of the south and central United States. Though many felt the effects, the storm brought havoc to the state of Texas, which was hit with unprecedented ice, snow and freezing temperatures. For days, millions of people were without both power and heat. More than 14 million Texans also reported disruption to water services, as frozen pipes burst in homes and power failures affected water treatment plants. In response to the devastation, CoBank partnered with fellow cooperatives and customers CHS and Land O’Lakes to donate $100,000 toward relief efforts.

Contributions supported the American Red Cross, which collaborated with community organizations throughout Texas to operate shelters and warming centers, providing emergency lodging, food and water, or just a place for people to get out of the cold. In the first two weeks following the storm, more than 300 Red Cross disaster workers were mobilized to provide overnight shelter to more than 8,000 people, 111,000 meals and 24,400 emergency supply kits.

A survey conducted by the University of Houston found that 69% of Texans lost power during Winter Storm Uri and its aftermath.

“CoBank believes in the cooperative commitment to community—supporting not only our customer-owners, but our communities in good times and in bad,” said Thomas Halverson, president and CEO of CoBank. “That commitment becomes even more important in the wake of a natural disaster. That’s why it is so gratifying to partner with organizations like CHS and Land O’ Lakes in our relief efforts. Together, we are able to multiply the impact of our philanthropic dollars and provide even greater support when it is needed most.”

In addition to their Red Cross donations, the partners provided funding to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), which established an emergency fund to support the needs of producers across Texas and Oklahoma. The organization began fundraising on February 18 and eventually provided nearly $113,000 in aid to help ranchers and landowners pay bills and repair the damage inflicted by the storm.

“The winter storms had a devastating effect and many families were left struggling to meet daily needs,” said Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS. “Some of the most seriously impacted were farmers and ranchers who worked tirelessly to keep livestock warm, fed and watered while waiting for temperatures to improve and power to be restored. By supporting the TSCRA fund, we were able to help the rural communities and families most in need as they worked to recover.”

Research by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services found that ranchers not only lost livestock to the extreme cold, but much of their grazing grain was lost as well.

Hughes Abell, a rancher from Austin and president of the TSCRA Disaster Relief Fund, said, “One of the silver linings of this storm was to see how the agricultural and rural community came together to help each other. We were blown away by the generosity of our members, friends and allied industry partners like CHS, CoBank and Land O’Lakes. Because of them, we were able to make a real difference.”

Throughout the remainder of 2021, the partners came together to support a number of additional disaster relief efforts—often joining with other cooperative partners and members of the Farm Credit System. Together, the organizations provided more than $1 million in aid to rural communities throughout the country, demonstrating what cooperatives have always known—that we are stronger together.

“As a 100-year-old, farmer-owned cooperative, we know that we do better when we help our neighbors,” said Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “Land O’Lakes is privileged to join CHS, CoBank and others in supporting the vibrant rural communities that continue to feed our country.”

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2021 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.