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Livestock producers still feeling impacts of Atlas, neighbors reach out to help

In the wake of the Winter Storm Atlas on Oct. 4-5, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming producers are still working toward just how severe the storm was.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Executive Director Silvia Christen says cattle lost in the area before the blizzard were worth $550 million, a value significantly cut by the effects of the storm.

Christen told the Rapid City Journal that the direct impact of cattle deaths could total $1.7 billion.

USDA helps

Since the reopening of the federal government, USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service Michael Scuse visited South Dakota and announced that assistance will be available to producers affected.

“This blizzard impacted lives and livelihoods across the region and USDA is committed to doing all we can to help ranchers during this difficult time,” Scuse said. “Due to the lack of a new Farm Bill, our means to help are limited, but we will do all we can. This disaster is a reminder of the unpredictable nature of agriculture, and the need for a strong farm safety net that would be provided by a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.”

A special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) signup will be open through NRCS to address the impacts, and Scuse also encouraged producers to submit loss data to the Farm Service Agency.

The EQIP signup will run through Nov. 15 and help producers dispose of livestock carcasses, replace destroyed fencing and rebuild any destroyed conservation practices.

Wyoming efforts

The Wyoming FFA Association also continues its fundraising efforts.

Local FFA chapters are placing donation cans in their communities, asking customers to give their change to relief efforts.  The donations will be collected mid-November and provided to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund, established by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation. 

Each of the nine state FFA officers and advisor Stacy Broda will raise at least $100, for a total of $1,000 to be donated to the fund.

The Johnson County CattleWomen are also chipping in on the fundraising and will be hosting a benefit dinner and auction.

The event will be held on Nov. 16 beginning at 5:30 and will feature a roast beef dinner, silent and live auctions.

“Dinner tickets are available for $20 and will be sold prior to the event only,” says the Johnson County CattleWomen. “We have a limit of 150 tickets.”

To purchase tickets for the event, visit MTR Ranch Supply or First Northern Bank in Buffalo or the Kaycee General Store in Kaycee. 

For more information on the event, contact Linda Foss at 307-684-9283 or Peggy Drury at 307-620-0505.

Heifers

Heifers for South Dakota, an effort organized by Montana rancher Ty Linger, promises to donate heifers to young ranchers who have seen losses. 

As of Oct. 23, the effort had raised 425 head of pledged cattle, with more than $6,000 to help pay for shipping.

While questions of whether the heifers will be enough or suitable to live in the region have been raised, producers continue to donate high quality cattle from the region.

Rancher’s Relief Fund

The Rancher’s Relief Fund is seeing tremendous donations that will be distributed to impacted livestock producers. 

The fund, administered by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation in cooperation with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, is for the direct benefit of ranchers.

The Rancher’s Relief Fund has raised more than $300,000 to this point. 

While individuals across the country are donating funds, large corporations are also stepping up to the plate.

Large organizations

The AgChat Foundation has also opened a fund with the goal of raising $500,000 to help ranchers affected by the blizzard.

“AgChat Foundation has received the support of many agricultural organizations and agribusinesses such as American Farm Bureau Federation and Tyson Foods,” they comment on their website. “Additionally, the foundation is working with rancher run organizations in South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.”

South Dakota Rancher Jodene Shaw wrote on her blog, “Ranching families across the prairie are experiencing the trauma and loss like never before. The loss of livestock is shocking to the core. Our hearts are raw.”

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup will continue to post updates on the impact of Atlas. Visit wylr.net for direct links to each of the organizations mentioned above. Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article.


SIDEBAR:
How to help

For anyone interested in donating to ranchers impacted by Atlas, there are several options.

The Rancher’s Relief Fund can be reached at giveblackhills.org by searching “Rancher’s Relief Fund.” The fund can also be found at facebook.com/ranchersrelieffund.

Heifers for South Dakota can be reached by calling Joey and Jen Kessel in Belfield, N.D. at 701-575-2230 or Judy Johnson of Sentinel Butte, N.D. at 701-872-4769. Visit Heifers for South Dakota on their Facebook page at facebook.com/pledgeheifer.

Donate to AgChat Foundation’s fundraising effort by visiting agchat.org/2013/10/agchat-foundation-partners-to-help-atlas-blizzard-victims.html.