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Published July 01, 2009, 07:54 AM

Cattle losses amid ND floods, snow could hit $30M

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota ranchers suffered an estimated $30 million loss when cattle died amid spring flooding and late-winter blizzards, a state agriculture official said Wednesday.

By: JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota ranchers suffered an estimated $30 million loss when cattle died amid spring flooding and late-winter blizzards, a state agriculture official said Wednesday.

Officials estimated that flooding in March and April that followed the late-season blizzards killed about 90,000 cattle in the state, including about 72,000 calves. Ranchers should see their federal disaster aid payments beginning in mid-July, Agriculture Department Undersecretary Jim Miller said during a meeting with representatives of farmer and rancher groups.

"To those producers who have lost a lot, this is going to help," said Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who joined Miller at the meeting.

Conrad estimated the state suffered more than $55 million in livestock losses, and about 3 million acres of flooded cropland that prevented farmers from planting in the spring.

Miller, who served on Conrad's staff for four years, toured flood-damaged North Dakota in April, only one day after he took the job at the Agriculture Department.

"It was apparent at that point there was going to be severe damage," he said later in an interview.

Conrad, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, was a top negotiator on the 2008 federal farm law. He said Miller helped craft the bill as a member of his staff and "knows North Dakota agriculture as well as anyone."

Money to ranchers comes from a new emergency aid program, called the Livestock Indemnity Program, that Congress included in the law.

Mike Heaton, president of the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota who ranches near McKenzie, said the payments won't be enough to cover all the ranchers' losses.

"It's not going to break us even but it helps," he said.

Jack Reich, who ranches in the Zap area of western North Dakota and is the president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said "it's been a difficult year for everybody."

Reich said he and other ranchers lost many calves from the harsh winter and spring flooding.

"It was bad timing for calving," he said.

Reich said he appreciated the fact that Miller came to North Dakota to survey damage and talk with producers.

"It's good to know he pays attention to what is going on out here," Reich said.

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