(Prairie News Service) North Dakota ranchers are still assessing their losses from the spring snowstorms. They are being urged to tap into federal relief, and some are calling for better payouts.
Pat Becker, a rancher from Sioux County, said lost at least 50 calves and expects the number to increase. Becker pointed out he and his workers did their best to protect the herds, but the wind and snow proved to be overwhelming.
"That big group of cows, you know, you can't put 'em inside; we don't have facilities," Becker explained. "We got them bedded down, and then the wind switches, then they want to drift away. And that's when we lost quite a few calves."
The federal government's Livestock Indemnity Program can help recover some losses. Payments are equal to 75 percent of the average fair market value for the animals.
Becker noted while it softens the blow, a new payment structure means he's getting $175 for smaller calves, far below the going rate. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., has requested an adjustment in payment levels.
The pain felt from a wet and snowy spring follows last year's severe drought. Becker, a member of the North Dakota Farmers Union, acknowledged the precipitation has helped, but the magnitude of events makes it harder to keep moving forward.
"Your plan is to build a ranch for your children," Becker remarked. "And it's just tough because, you know, since 2015, we've been lucky just to break even, you know, and it's really a struggle."
He suggested proper support for weather disasters would create more stability for independent producers. In turn, Becker added it can make farming more attractive to younger generations.
In the meantime, affected producers can connect with their Farm Service Agency office to see if their losses meet the aid threshold. Documentation must be reported within 30 days of a livestock loss.