U.S. Senator Johnson and USDA Officials Meet with South Dakota Ranchers

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South Dakota Farmers Union members met with U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Michael Scuse, SD Department of Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service SD State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich, USDA Farm Service Agency SD State Executive Director Craig Schaunaman, and USDA Rural Development SD State Director Elsie Meeks in Scenic and Rapid City on Tuesday, October 22.

“It is imperative that our elected and appointed officials fully realize the impact that this October blizzard has had on our ranchers and rural communities in South Dakota,” said South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke. “We need their leadership in South Dakota and Washington DC to pass a farm bill and provide vital resources to our ranchers.”

Sen. Johnson invited USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Michael Scuse to South Dakota and organized the meetings in both Scenic and Rapid City. The meeting in Rapid City took part with the South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. The topics that continually came up were the lack of a farm bill and the  government shutdown that further disrupted recovery efforts during this natural disaster.

“If a farm bill had passed last year before it originally expired,these ranchers would be applying to the Livestock Indemnity Program right now,”said Sombke. But because of the lack of leadership and action in the House, the farm bill did not pass, there is no Livestock Indemnity Program, the government shut down during this disaster, closing Farm Service Agency offices in these areas, and now our ranchers are suffering, not because of their own doing, but the failure of government.”

Both versions of the farm bill that passed the Senate and House include the Livestock Indemnity Program that is intended to assist producers in times of natural disaster. The Senate passed farm bill would pay eligible producers at a rate of 65 percent of market value, while the House passed farm bill would pay eligible producers at a rate of 75 percent.

“The biggest misconception out here is that these producers did not properly attend to their livestock,” said Sombke. “I have raised livestock my entire life and the truth is that we have never seen a storm this early, with this much moisture, over such a short period of time. South Dakota’s ranchers care very deeply for their livestock and livelihood, we know that they did everything they could to protect their livestock.”

Farm Service Agency offices in South Dakota are currently collecting information about producer losses, hoping that Congress will pass a farm bill and the Livestock Indemnity Program will be swiftly implemented following passage.

“South Dakota’s ranchers are highly independent and do not receive any government subsidies,” Sombke said. “However, there is a time and place for government, and when disaster strikes, government has a role to play. South Dakota Farmers Union will continue to support South Dakota ranching families and their livelihoods.”


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