South Dakota cattle producers with losses stemming from last weekend’s blizzard may be frustrated by the lack of federal assistance due to government shutdown, but help is on the way.

Three South Dakota organizations have combined efforts to establish the Rancher Relief Fund with the Black Hills Area Community Foundations to provide support and assistance to ranchers affected by the blizzard.

You can donate to the Rancher Relief Fund online.

Or you can mail checks to:
Black Hills Community Area Foundation
% SD Rancher Relief Fund
PO Box 231
Rapid City, 57709

Make your checks out to "Rancher Relief Fund."

The fund will be administered by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and South Dakota Sheep Growers Association.

Producers who lost animals need to properly document the losses as it will help process potential claims.  Third-party verification of losses is recommended.  To get answers to questions about livestock identification, you can contact the South Dakota Brand Board at 605-773-3324.

Damages from the blizzard have led Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to call on Congress to pass a new farm bill, providing financial assistance to livestock producers affect by the weather. According to the Rapid City Journal, Thune says both the Senate and House versions of the new farm bill include a livestock disaster program that would cover between 65 percent and 75 percent of ranchers' losses.

The Livestock Indemnity Program, set up to limit the losses cattle producers incur from natural disasters, expired with the 2008 farm bill on Oct.1 and ranchers are left with unanswered questions while the furlough continues.

"A lot of the government agencies that we would normally be turning to for those answers are furloughed,” Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, told the Billings Gazette. “So there's this sort of timing issue that's enhancing the frustration out there in cattle country."

Up to 60,000 cattle were killed as a result of the blizzard.