South Dakota ranchers who lost thousands of cattle in an early season blizzard can apply for limited help in removing carcasses and repairing damaged property, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday, but the lack of a farm bill means most other aid programs still can’t give relief.
USDA will allow farmers to sign up through the National Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Undersecretary Michael Scuse said Tuesday in Rapid City, S.D. The program will provide assistance in disposing of dead livestock and in rebuilding damaged fencing and shelters.
Sarah Maxwell, an NRCS spokeswoman, said the carcasses are a hazard to water quality, which gives her agency the jurisdiction to aid South Dakota farmers. Congress appropriated the money to fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in the continuing resolution that reopened the federal government last week.
But ranchers in South Dakota still don’t have access to the recovery programs that would ordinarily be funded by the Farm Bill. Ranchers hit hard by natural disasters can usually rely on the Livestock Indemnity Program and other federally run programs funded under the Farm Bill. But the bill expired Oct. 1, and no relief measures have been appropriated.
In Rapid City, Scuse called on Congress to reauthorize the bill.
“Due to the lack of a new Farm Bill, our means to help are limited — but we will do all we can,” he said in a USDA release. “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.”
The NRCS is splitting the cost of emergency personnel with the state of South Dakota. Farmers have until Nov. 15 to sign up for the relief program.