Help is on the way for South Dakota ranchers, and the fund to help them recover from a devastating blizzard is at more than $3 million. More than 5,000 donors have stepped up to open their hearts and wallets with donations ranging from $5 to $100,000. According to Bob Fortune, President of South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, those are just the donations that have been processed. We could see even more money added to the total before the new year.
"We were kind of blown away to think we'd get a million dollars to help people with immediate needs and stuff. But the funds just keep coming in," Fortune said.
The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund (RRF) was established on October 8, 2013, by the SD Stockgrowers Association, SD Cattlemen's Association and SD Sheepgrowers Association at the Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support and relief assistance to those in the agriculture industry impacted by the blizzard of October 4 to 7.
Fortune said images of dead livestock piled up following storm still haunt many in the state.
"You can tell in my voice it gets to me," Fortune said.
More than 400 applications for assistance have come in. You only have until December 31 to apply for assistance if you have not done so. Fortune said disaster relief volunteers have begun distributing the money. Once everyone who has applied gets help, the leftover money will go toward a second round of payments.
"The guys that lost cows, they lost this year's paycheck and next year's paycheck," Fortune said.
It may take years to completely recover from this disaster, but we on our way to making South Dakota's ranchers strong again.
"It's a business, but it's also a way of life," Fortune said.
If you still need to apply, go to these websites:
Rancher Relief Fund - www.ranchersrelief.org
SD Cattlemen's Association - www.sdcattlemen.org
SD Stockgrowers Association - www.southdakotastockgrowers.org
SD Sheepgrowers Association - www.sdsheepgrowers.org
Black Hills Area Community Foundation - www.giveblackhills.org
SD VOAD - https://sdvoad.communityos.org/cms/home