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Sen. Tim Johnson Talks Farm Bill

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Senator Tim Johnson visited parts of western South Dakota Tuesday, talking to ranchers and assessing damages from the October blizzard. Wednesday, he met in Sioux Falls to talk about the next steps and what needs to be done now to help these ranchers.

It's been about three weeks since the fall blizzard hit parts of Western South Dakota, killing tens of thousands of livestock.

"The ranchers are pleading for help. I will do the best that I can," said Sen. Tim Johnson.

After Senator Tim Johnson visited areas West River, he says the farm bill needs to be passed now, more than ever.

"It will take time but I hope it will come quickly," said Johnson.

The farm bill expired on September 30, and Congress has yet to pass a new one. That bill had provisions stripped that would help livestock producers dealing with a disaster.

"The farm bill itself won't be nearly enough to cover the losses,” said Johnson.

Three disaster assistance programs were included in the 2008 farm bill but expired in 2011 for budget purposes. Johnson's goal is to add them back into a new farm bill, so ranchers can be covered for cattle losses.

"These programs won't make producers whole again, but they will serve as a much needed boost to help them recover,” said Johnson.

Johnson says public fundraisers like the Rancher Relief Fund are welcomed, but that alone will not help them survive.

“They need a government program now. The private entities are good and they have South Dakotans coming together, but it won't be nearly enough to cover rancher’s losses," said Johnson.

And with frustrations mounting for ranchers, Johnson hopes Congress doesn't stall any longer on a new farm bill.
Officials tell ranchers to document all cattle losses. Senator Johnson says it could take years for some of these ranchers to recover if they are even able to stay in business at all.

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