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US agency to cover matching costs following New Mexico fire

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will waive cost-sharing requirements for New Mexico farmers and ranchers affected by the largest wildfire in the state's recorded history.

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján on Thursday announced that the agency will cover cost sharing for emergency forest restoration, conservation and other environmental improvement programs.

The move follows the approval of a massive federal spending bill that included $2.5 billion in relief for those affected by the fire and post-fire flooding. That bill included a provision to waive cost sharing for all programs administered by the USDA.

The wildfire was sparked by two government planned burns earlier this year. It ripped through hundreds of square miles of forest and grazing lands, destroying homes and the livelihoods of many of the rural residents.

Through no fault of their own, Luján said residents lost large swaths of cherished lands and will have to grapple with the effects for years.

"Our farmers and ranchers, business owners and families deserve relief to recover," he said in a statement.