Update: A fund has been established to assist South Dakota cattle producers who have lost livestock following the blizzard.
Producers are still tallying losses, but calculations from the early blizzard moving through South Dakota Friday estimate livestock losses near 60,000 head.
The blizzard, one of the worst in state history, dumped four feet of snow in some areas leaving cattle producers to dig through snow drifts in hopes of rescuing part of the herd. Some producers lost up to half of their herds and early estimates listed herd losses in western South Dakota to be five percent of the total cattle supply.
New reports Tuesday list cattle losses at 60,000 head and more bad news for the state’s producers stem from D.C.’s inability to pass a new farm bill. The Livestock Indemnity Program in place to limit the losses cattle producers incur from natural disasters expired with the 2008 farm bill on Oct.1, the first day of the government shutdown.
The paperwork detailing losses with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency won’t be filed until the USDA returns to work.
"Those (FSA) offices are furloughed and there are no employees there. They are unable to help us even though they desperately want to," Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, told The Dickinson Press.
Other states are also in the process of tallying agricultural losses as the snow affected Colorado and Wyoming and snow and tornadoes hit Iowa and Nebraska. One estimate lists cattle losses in Nebraska over the weekend between 2,000 and 3,000 head.
Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, advises cattle producers to document losses so they’re prepared when the shutdown ends and farm bill discussions conclude.