OUR VOICE: Stand behind ranchers during time of need

Farm Forum

A brutal snowstorm, devastating losses.

And now, a sad parade of cattle carcasses, thousands killed during a blizzard, heading to be disposed of in pits in Pennington and Meade counties.

With the removal and disposal of the cattle — which, because of the sheer numbers, will take some time — this chapter will come to an end.

But the effects of the early October blizzard could be felt for years among the ranchers in West River, and the story will only get grimmer.

The national media is only now picking up a story that will have long-term effects on beef prices and the food supply. They’ve been focused on a government shutdown, their eyes on a looming economic disaster while a true disaster happens in their peripheral vision.

But we understand here that this will not be an easy trial to overcome.

We know that the blizzard was a freak storm. We know the cows, usually hearty, did not have their winter coats. We know there was no place to shelter them, or even to bring them to pasture closer to ranchers.

The cows won’t be taken to market. Next year’s calves will not be born. New cattle will be needed to replace the ones lost, and that could be a several-year process.

Likely some, or fewer still, of these ranchers have insurance. Will there be a ranch-rescue program or a safety net to protect these ranchers, so integral to the lifeblood of South Dakota’s economy?

A fund was set up on the Give Black Hills website. Go to giveblackhills.org/27677 to donate to the Rancher Relief Fund.

Checks may be mailed to the Black Hills Community Area Foundation/SD Rancher Relief Fund. Make the check out to Rancher Relief Fund, and send to P.O. Box 231, Rapid City, SD 57709.