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Published October 25, 2013, 09:20 AM

Benefit in the works for ND ranchers hurt by blizzard

Those wishing to donate to causes benefiting ranchers affected by an October blizzard already have charities set up in South Dakota, but soon they could see a benefit for North Dakota ranchers.

By: Bryan Horwath, Forum News Service

DICKINSON, N.D. — Those wishing to donate to causes benefiting ranchers affected by an October blizzard already have charities set up in South Dakota, but soon they could see a benefit for North Dakota ranchers.

At a forum hosted by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in Hettinger on Oct. 22, Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, said the NDSA has received inquiries about how to help ranchers in her state. She said the organization will discuss options for setting up a relief fund this 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 says. “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.”

“I think if you want to do something for North Dakota producers, you wait to see what the stockmen’s association does,” Heitkamp says. “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.”

During the meeting, 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 this week — would mean a renewed Livestock Indemnity Program could be utilized retroactively by ranchers who suffered losses and kept appropriate records of those losses.

Ellingson points out that livestock producers have faced a myriad of challenges since the storm hit, from the partial government shutdown and a lack of available Farm Service Agency resources for a time to the repercussions of stress related to the loss of livelihood.

On Oct. 24, the NDSA rolled out new resource links — found on the organization’s home page at www.ndstockmen.org — geared toward the LIP program, carcass disposal tactics, financial mediation and mental health, and general support for a laundry list of disaster-related issues.

“This storm and the losses suffered because of it have not only been economically taxing, but also emotionally taxing,” Ellingson says. “We want to continue to push people toward those resources that are available. In the public, I think it’s also important to show support for livestock producers and to recognize the losses that some of them have incurred.”

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