BEEF Daily

No Money For SD Ranchers?


Will the federal government step up and help the ranchers in South Dakota who were hit by the Atlas blizzard?

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place in looking out for her constituents. The tea party conservative is South Dakota’s lone congressional representative, and she has been consistent in her voting to limit government and cut spending. Now she is finding it difficult to find cooperation from some colleagues in acquiring federal help for South Dakota ranchers impacted by early October’s winter storm Atlas.

As ranchers in western South Dakota pick up the pieces after the fall blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle, the government shutdown, an expired farm bill and lack of federal aid are leaving the state’s $7 billion cattle industry reeling.

When did helping people who truly need help become a question? If the federal government can find $325,000 to spend on developing a robotic squirrel to study how a rattlesnake will react to it, you’d think it could help taxpayers who really need assistance. Or how about the $3.8 million our government spent to study the “conflict” between humans and elephants?


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One cross that Noem bears is that she voted “no” on a measure to help Hurricane Sandy victims a year ago. Representatives from the Northeast haven't forgotten that, and it’s apparently time to return the gesture. But Noem isn’t getting much cooperation from her fellow tea party pals, either. Her petition to get national disaster status for the area is drawing only the sound of crickets.

On a relaed note, I’ve received some repulsive emails from different folks across the country who maintain that the blizzard is all a hoax, or that ranchers are rich enough to weather the losses on their own. Ranchers don’t need or deserve a government handout, they contend.

The affected ranchers lost anywhere from 5-100% of their cattle herds; this is a blow to a lifetime of work and achievement. While those affected don’t live in a populated area, these ranchers and lost cattle are integral to our nations’ food security.

Thankfully, there are grassroots efforts underway to help these ranchers. Many good, well-intentioned folks across the country are donating their time, talent and treasure. These are efforts that are greatly appreciated, and attest to the virtue and generosity of folks on the land – we look out for each other. Unfortunately, Congress doesn’t share that same caring conscience.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Congress should help the South Dakota ranchers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


More Winter Storm Atlas information:

5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard

Cattle Death Toll Rises As 'Atlas' Blizzard Recovery Continues

Relief Fund Established For South Dakota Ranchers

Rancher Details "Gut-Wrenching" Pain From Cattle Lost In SD Blizzard

Early South Dakota Blizzard Leaves Thousands Of Cattle Dead

Ranchers Will Prevail After Winter Storm Atlas Devastates Cattle Herd

Discuss this Blog Entry 52

Chelcie (not verified)
on Oct 24, 2013

All political preferences aside, I believe the victims of hurricane Sandy DID receive federal aid, despite the 'NO' vote from SD's Rep. Noem. It would be far too easy to point out how hypocritical this makes Rep. Noem. She stands on a platform for less governmental intrusion and regulation, so why should any fellow Congressman come to her aide and support this request? They should support her because this isn't about Rep. Noem. It isn't about her political agenda. It's about people whose lives' have been ripped out from underneath them. We have disaster aide for a reason and disasters come in all shapes and sizes. In terms of a 'disaster' I don't believe what happened in SD is any different than what happed during hurricane Sandy, or Katrina, or during the flooding in Colorado, or when wildfires plagued much of this country. Many needed help then, and many more will likely need help again in the future.

The emails insinuating ranchers are wealthy enough to absorb the cost of Atlas are disheartening to say the least. But those stem from an entirely different problem we in agriculture face today. Ranching is a land-rich & cash-poor endeavor. It's not a fast turn around for ranchers to sell some acreage to cover costs. Many could sell livestock to increase cash flow, but not if they've already lost 50% of their herd. I'm sure there were plenty of people affected by the events I mentioned above who were more than capable of absorbing the costs of their damage.

I'm not saying whether or not people in SD should receive federal aide. I have mixed feelings on the subject myself. I think there is a time and place for federal aide, but I believe the amount of federal aide, the type, and the duration of the aide are often what causes the most problems.

Bottom Line: With or without federal aide these ranchers will keep going. They will put one foot in front of the other. They will persevere. Because you fight for the things you love most and you weather the bad storms. Literally. Agriculture is a close-knit community and there are already several grassroots campaigns in the works to help alleviate some of the stresses these folks are facing. In times of trouble and despair, those of us in agriculture draw near to one another. We don't put our backs against a wall and begin pointing fingers. I'm sure those folks would be humbled by any additional aide they received, but they're not going to stand around and wait for it. They're going to put their boots on the ground and begin picking up the pieces themselves.

Chris (not verified)
on Nov 24, 2013

This article states....

"While those affected don’t live in a populated area, these ranchers and lost cattle are integral to our nations’ food security."

Not true. It only affects the "food security" for those who insist on eating beef. Surely humans can sustain without beef.

Also, while I sympathize with ranchers who lost thousands of dollars worth of cattle, why are taxpayers expected to bail out their business when they refused to insure themselves? If I own a business and neglect to purchase insurance and get burned, I doubt the government would come running to bail me out. It is called individual responsibility. If cattle insurance is too expensive then perhaps the industry is being propped up and we should let free market economics take over.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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