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Farm Bureau members raise funds to help ranchers in South Dakota

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 12/09/2013 1:41 PM

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Farm Bureau members are sending hope to South Dakota ranchers.

Members in Minnesota raised nearly $14,000 for the South Dakota Farm Bureau Cares fund during the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation Auction on Nov. 22. The fund was set up to help ranch families harmed by the early October blizzard.

The storm brought high winds, driving rain and blinding snow to the western third of South Dakota, said South Dakota Farm Bureau president Scott VanderWal. It's hard to get a handle on the number of ranchers who suffered losses. Some lost only a couple head; others lost 200 to 400.

Ranchers continue to work on the grisly task of pulling dead cattle from rivers and ravines and counting dead livestock. An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 cattle were lost, VanderWal said. The total number of lost cattle will never be known.

The economic impact can be likened to losing your job and all your income for two years all at once, he said. Ranchers roundup their herds in the fall and sell their calves, which is their annual paycheck. For many, that paycheck vanished in the storm's wake. Ranchers who lost bred cows not only lost a lifetime of genetics, but also next year's income. The storm's impact will linger for years, VanderWal said.

The loss comes at a particularly inopportune time as feeder cattle prices are near or at record high prices. A 500-pound steer is bringing about $2 a pound, VanderWal said. Ranchers haven't had the record income crop producers have over the past few years and this fall was their opportunity to hit a home run, he said.

Some ranchers have freezing and smothering insurance on their cattle and that will help them rebuild herds, VanderWal said. If a farm bill passes before the end of the year, the livestock disaster program will be there to help.

In the meantime, Farm Bureau members from South Dakota and across the entire nation have contributed money to help. South Dakota raised $19,000 during its convention over the weekend. In total, $70,000 has been raised so far from South Dakota and across the nation, VanderWal said.

The money will be given to ranch families to use for necessities, he said. There is a cap of $1,000 per ranch family now because they have no idea of the need and they want to help as many families as possible.

Ranchers may apply directly for aid or they may be referred, said Wayne Smith, executive director of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. The application can be found online at South Dakota Farm Bureau is working with Catholic Social Services of Rapid City and the South Dakota Community Foundation to be sure the funds are tax-deductible and get to ranchers in need.

People who want to contribute to the fund may go online to the website and contribute using their credit card or they may mail a contribution to South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, P.O. Box 1426, Huron, S.D. 57350. Make the check out to the South Dakota Farm Bureau Cares Fund.

Another fund has also been set up to help families hurt by the storm. The Ranchers Relief Fund was organized by the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. Find more information at