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Published October 22, 2013, 11:48 AM

Blizzard-lost Plains cattle will hurt area economy

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — An early October blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle in western South Dakota will have a staggering impact on the regional economy, the head of the state Stockgrowers Association said.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — An early October blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle in western South Dakota will have a staggering impact on the regional economy, the head of the state Stockgrowers Association said.

The direct economic impact of the cattle loses could be half a billion dollars, but the indirect impact could total $1.7 billion, Stockgrowers Executive Director Silvia Christen told the Rapid City Council on Monday night.

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven has estimated cattle losses at between 15,000 and 30,000. Affected ranchers won't be buying trucks, eating at restaurants and participating in activities, Christen said.

"This is going to have an impact on Rapid City. Most of these producers, their financial institutions are based here, their attorney services are here, their (cattle) feed," she said.

About $300,000 has been donated to a relief fund set up since the Oct. 4 blizzard dumped up to 4 feet of snow on the region, Christen said.

"We've received donations from 48 states and three different countries, including some really generous donations from individuals who I know are scraping together to make that donation," she said.

"They have a lot of empathy for what our producers are dealing with," Christen said.

Ranchers in northwestern Nebraska and southwestern North Dakota suffered heavy cattle losses. So far there has been no federal aid because a government program to help ranchers recover livestock losses has expired, and Congress has yet to pass a new farm bill.

Aaron Krauter, North Dakota state executive director for the federal Farm Service Agency, which handles federal farm programs, told Agweek that he is optimistic Congress will pass a new farm bill that reauthorizes funding for the program. He was optimistic it would be made retroactive to cover losses from the blizzard.

Some ranchers have private insurance that would compensate them for at least part of their blizzard-related losses, but such insurance is rare, Jesse Konold, with Key Insurance in Mobridge, S.D., told Agweek. He estimates that only about one-fifth of his company's clients have the insurance that can cost up to $7 for each $1,000 of coverage.

"That's a big hit to profits," Konold said.

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