S.D. blizzard Rancher Relief Fund tops $4 million

Farm Forum

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A fund set up to help South Dakota ranchers in the wake of an early October blizzard that killed thousands of farm animals has surpassed $4 million.

The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund has received money from more than 5,000 donors in all 50 states. It recently got a boost of more than half a million dollars when Sturgis-based First Interstate Bank bought 33 calves that were then sold at auction barns in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and Texas.

“We had no idea we could get this much support from the communities,” First Interstate President Shawn Rost told the Rapid City Journal. “The sale barns, all the local ranchers, the businesses all across the region stepped up to support this cause, and we’re just amazed. Talk about triumph from tragedy.”

The Oct. 10 storm that hit with surprising intensity brought first rain and then up to 4 feet of snow to western South Dakota, killing nearly 22,000 cattle, 1,400 sheep, 300 horses and 40 bison.

The relief fund now totals more than $4.2 million and is still accepting donations. South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Executive Director Silvia Christen said she never dreamed the fund would raise so much money.

“On one hand it is tough to see that there are so many families that were impacted and are hurting. But on the other hand, I’m grateful to know we have this fund available so that we can make a difference for some of those families,” she said.

The fund was established by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. It is being managed by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.

More than 500 ranchers applied for aid by the Dec. 31 deadline. Christen told KOTA-TV that more than $800,000 has been distributed so far.