“She’s out shooting cows.”

I’m listening to Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, who is not known for public displays of emotion, but his voice chokes a little as he tells us about a conversation with a Kansas friend. His friend’s wife was absent because she was at home doing what is hard, but what is also an act of kindness and mercy, as she dealt with cattle mortally injured by the recent Kansas wildfires.

Cattlemen live to protect the animals in their care. The feeling of failure when disaster strikes is profound, and it is devastating. As I visit with my Kansas friends, and their stories are repeated across Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado, I’m told of a 50-foot-high wall of flames traveling at interstate speeds and leaving devastation and heartbreak in its wake. Of all the emotions we humans endure, surely none is worse than helplessness in the face of tragedy.

This is a human tragedy, as lives were lost and businesses ruined. It’s an environmental challenge, as millions of acres lie unprotected from spring weather. It’s a generational loss, as the cattle that perished were the results of decades of careful breeding, and those bloodlines won’t be replaced in our lifetimes. And, it’s an economic tragedy of Katrina-like proportions, as farmers and ranchers struggle to replace a lifetime of work, much of it uncovered by insurance.

My Facebook feed is full of pictures of hay traveling from all over the nation to the affected areas, farmers reaching out to their fellow farmers, and like most of us involved in agriculture, my sorrow is leavened by the pride we rightfully take in the generosity of our friends and neighbors. Here at Missouri Farm Bureau, we’ve made donations from our organization and from our Missouri Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, many of our members have organized hay and fencing donations, and we continue to seek out ways to help. Our members who would like to send donations to our Foundation should do so, and we’ll make sure they reach farmers who have suffered losses as a result of the fires.

We have a large group of farmers in our nation’s capital this week, and we’re excited to be here while the health care act is being debated, while a Supreme Court Justice is being confirmed, and we’re looking forward to talking to our Senators and Representatives about the issues that matter most to our friends and neighbors back home.

We’re also looking forward to the confirmation of Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture while we’re here in Washington. When his nomination was first announced, he received no little criticism and ridicule from the chattering classes for his actions as governor of Georgia because he set aside a statewide day of prayer while Georgia was suffering from an historic drought.  Well, Mr. Perdue, I’m glad that you understand the power of prayer, proud that you officially recognized our need for prayer, and I hope your first act as Secretary of Agriculture is to call for prayers for the victims of the tragedy on our Plains.