Over the past few days, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming and other areas have seen record amounts of unseasonably early snowfall. Livestock producers have been some hit hardest by the unseasonal weather.
“This early season, record setting blizzard is devastating to our producers and our thoughts are with them,” said South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch. “We are working to coordinate with ag industry stakeholders to establish and execute a response plan.”
SDDA is working closely with the Office of Emergency Management, Animal Industry Board, Brand Board and Governor’s Office on recovery efforts.
A statement from Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) said he's received many reports of property damage and significant livestock losses throughout western South Dakota.
The New York Times reported that cattle ranchers in western South Dakota were reporting losses between 20% and 50% of their herds, and early estimates suggest the region may have lost 5% or more of its cattle. National Farmers Union said their early estimates indicated losses of 15 to 20% of entire herds.
NFU president Roger Johnson criticized the government shutdown as limiting the government's ability to assist in the before and after of the massive weather event.
"With government agencies operating in limited capacity, the residents of these areas were lacking information and saw delays in reports and warnings in order to be prepared for the extreme conditions experienced," Johnson said.
He added that since U.S. Department of Agriculture offices are not collecting or receiving data, this is an "extremely concerning situation." He added, "Ranchers do not have access to assistance with the USDA Farm Service Agency offices closed, Livestock Indemnity Program benefits are not available; and other sources of support and information are unavailable."
South Dakota ranchers with livestock losses due to the devastating snowstorm over the weekend should carefully certify losses in the event federal assistance becomes available, Thune said. Certification can include second party certification, rendering receipts, photos or video with date stamp of dead livestock, calving/lambing records, or purchase records to verify the number of livestock owned on the day prior to the snowstorm, Thune recommended.
Producers should document all livestock losses with pictures, vaccination and hauling receipts, or any other records for possible future use in disaster relief programs. Third-party verification of losses is recommended, SDDA said.