South Dakota Senator John Thune says getting a Farm Bill passed is one of the most important actions Congress can take to help western South Dakota ranchers who lost thousands of cattle in the weekend blizzard.
Thune has called on House Speaker John Boehner to appoint members to a committee to hammer out the differences in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill so Congress can get the legislation passed.
Right now there is no Farm Bill because the old one expired on October 1, so there is no livestock disaster program to help ranchers.
Thune said Wednesday morning that farmers and ranchers are essentially in a 'no man's land' of agriculture programs to help them out in times like this.
Thune is also calling on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to reopen Farm Service Agency offices to help assess the livestock losses because of the blizzard but Thune adds without a Farm Bill and its livestock disaster program, there is no help that officials can offer to ranchers.
Senator Tim Johnson also highlighted the impact of the stalemate in Washington in a statement sent earlier this week.
"The closure of FSA offices is another demonstration of the real impact the government shutdown is having on South Dakotans. Like the snow storm, the government shutdown is causing major disruptions in people's lives and every day business,” Johnson said, in the statement.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem has announced that Speaker Boehner has reassured her that he will appoint members to negotiate a final Farm Bill within the next week.
“We need to move quickly to get a five-year Farm Bill completed,” Noem said, in a statement.
Livestock disaster programs can be retroactive once a new Farm Bill is passed.