Parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota and North Dakota experienced an early blizzard last week. As plows continue to dig out cities and rural areas, reports are coming in from ranchers estimating that 5 percent to 10 percent of cattle in western South Dakota have been killed by the storm, although some are reporting losses as high as a devastating 20 percent.
"Sheep ranchers are reporting loss of ewes and lambs with several cases of hundreds of animal perishing in the storm. Sheep stood-up better to the wet cold than cattle, which had not yet haired-up for winter. The two to three feet of snow, combined with 60 mile an hour winds, smothered animals. This early in October also meant a number of sheep operations had not weaned and shipped lambs to market," stated Peter Orwick, American Sheep Industry Association executive director.
With the Sept. 30, 2011 expiration of the Farm Bill, so expired the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). LIP helps producers defray the costs of replenishing flocks and herds when animals are killed by a natural disaster.
In May, Rep. Kristi Noem (S.D.) reintroduced legislation to grant a five-year extension to the LIP program. The pending legislation, as written, would reauthorize the program to retroactively cover livestock losses experienced throughout 2013.
Documentation is crucial if the federal government decides to offer disaster payments. Therefore, it is imperative for producers who have experienced loss to document it. Producers are advised to verify when, where and how many livestock were lost. Photos and video are excellent options to use for this purpose. If possible, record the animal identification tag numbers for livestock that were lost.
Third-party verification (non-relative and non-employee) is also required. The third-party should visually see the losses and write, sign and date a note stating their name, verifying that they saw the losses and indicating the number of animals lost. Renderer receipts can be used to verify losses as well.
In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, Sen. John Thune (S.D.) wrote, "Opening our Farm Service Agency offices in western South Dakota is a step to begin providing services and relief to ranchers who have experienced devastating livestock losses. I'm also continuing to work with Speaker Boehner and hope that he will quickly name House Farm Bill conferees so that we can finalize a new Farm Bill-one that includes livestock disaster programs-as soon as possible. Last weekend's devastating storm is another example of why we need to complete work on the Farm Bill for our farmers and ranchers."
The South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and South Dakota Stockgrowers Association established the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund to provide support and relief assistance to ranchers devastated by the blizzard. To donate to the Rancher Relief Fund visit www.giveblackhills.org and search "Rancher Relief Fund."