Bryan Horwath, Forum News Service, Published October 24 2013
ND stockmen's group to discuss setting up relief fund for those hurt by October blizzardDICKINSON, N.D. – Those wishing to donate to relief causes benefiting ranchers affected by a disastrous October blizzard already have charities for South Dakota ranchers, but soon could see a benefit for North Dakota ranchers.
During a forum hosted Tuesday by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in Hettinger, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson said the NDSA has received inquiries about how to help ranchers in her state affected by the storm. She said the organization will discuss options for setting up a relief fund next week.
“There are a lot of people who have realized or who are in the process of realizing the catastrophic losses that livestock producers experienced in that blizzard,” Ellingson said. “People want to help. Some people have talked about wanting to help those affected the most, many of whom are in South Dakota, while others have asked about North Dakota-related projects. We want to take a look at that and what the possibilities might be.”
A charity called the “Rancher Relief Fund” has been set up in South Dakota in conjunction with the Black Hills Community Area Foundation to help ranchers and farmers who incurred losses during the storm, which dumped up to 4 feet of snow in parts of North Dakota and South Dakota.
With the popularity of the South Dakota relief fund – its Facebook page had nearly 7,500 likes as of Thursday afternoon – one question fielded by Heitkamp in Hettinger was whether a similar fund would be set up, one specifically for North Dakota ranchers.
“I think if you want to do something for North Dakota producers, you wait to see what the stockmen’s association does,” Heitkamp said. “There are a lot of people who want to help people in North Dakota. I grew up in the Red River Valley, and I’ve spent a lot of time (in southwest North Dakota), but I’ve never seen anything like this storm. It’s just so unusual and so horrific. This is one of the worst livestock disasters in the history of the nation.”
Heitkamp stressed that a finished farm bill – which has been sent to a conference committee with representatives from the U.S. Senate and House scheduled to meet next week – would mean a renewed Livestock Indemnity Program could be utilized retroactively by ranchers who suffered losses and kept appropriate records of those losses.
Heitkamp predicted that a farm bill would likely be finalized before the end of the year.