WASHINGTON D.C. -
As Congress works to end the government shutdown South Dakota's Congressional delegation is calling on leaders to finish the Farm Bill.
There is no government assistance for western South Dakota ranchers who lost cattle in the weekend blizzard because Congress has failed to pass a new Farm Bill.
The old Farm Bill expired October 1 and without new legislation there are no livestock disaster programs available.
The House and Senate have both already passed different versions of the legislation, but an agreement hasn't been reached leaving South Dakota ranchers without any protection against the losses they just suffered.
"Get this thing on the President's desk, get it signed into law," Republican South Dakota Senator John Thune said on Wednesday.
Thune has sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him to appoint members to a conference committee to finish work on the legislation and provide assistance for livestock losses.
"But ultimately the real issue here is getting passage of the Farm Bill, getting it through the finish line and to get that assistance out there," Thune said.
Passing the legislation is something Congress can still do despite the ongoing government shutdown. It's why Republican Representative Kristi Noem took to the House floor Tuesday to describe the devastating stories from South Dakota ranchers.
"He found what he called the trail of death, about 200 of his 600 cows were dead leading up to and throughout a draw," Noem described as she recounted a story she heard from a western South Dakota rancher.
She urged her fellow House members to move toward final passage of a Farm Bill.
"Getting a Farm Bill done could give those in western South Dakota more certainty during this very very difficult time," Noem said.
Thune agrees saying a Farm Bill including livestock disaster programs needs to be passed sooner rather than later.
"So now we're sort of operating in this ‘no man's land’ and that's why it's so important and so timely especially now that they expedite this. It's incredibly frustrating especially when you have a natural disaster like this that we've seen in western South Dakota not to have a Farm Bill in place," Thune said.
However, Democratic South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson wants Congress to end the shutdown before passing a Farm Bill.
"The first order of business is for the House to pass a clean Continuing Resolution, end the government shutdown, and open up the FSA (Farm Service Agency) offices for business. Then we need to pass the Farm Bill to provide the much needed livestock disaster assistance to ranchers,” Johnson said in a statement Wednesday.
Noem says Speaker Boehner has assured her he will appoint members to negotiate a final Farm Bill in the next week.
If and when a Farm Bill is passed it will be retroactive so the losses suffered now will be covered under the new program.
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