Thousands raised for Atlas relief; more needed

Oct 25, 2013

Donations of money and some cattle have been rolling in for ranchers across South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana following blizzard Atlas, which killed tens of thousands of cattle in what has been added to the list of top agriculture tragedies.

Tyson Foods, Inc. is donating $50,000 to aid farmers and ranchers impacted by the unexpected winter storm.

The winter storm dumped as many as 50 inches of snow, causing devastating livestock losses for some farmers and ranchers.

Tyson joined AgChat, a foundation to assist farmers and ranchers through social media platforms, and pledged to donate $10 per #RancherRelief tweet via Twitter, up to $50,000, to the effort. The two organizations held an online event earlier this week, resulting in more than 5,000 tweets in only a few hours.

AgChat announced earlier this month its goal to raise $500,000 to bring emergency relief to ranchers affected by Atlas. Rescue efforts have been widely inhibited due to snow depths. Officials have reported that full-scale ramifications of the storm may not be seen for some time.

The unified campaign has been established at the Ag- Chat Foundation’s giving site. As a 501(c)3 organization, all donations to the Rancher Relief Fund are completely tax-deductible. Additional organizations and brands are encouraged to partner in these efforts. Inquiries about partnering or giving can be directed to Executive Director, Emily Zweber at 651/341-0430.

So far, more than $190,000 was donated to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund, said Regina Jahr, executive director of the Black Hills Area Community Foundation, which is administering the aid.

The CHS Foundation, the charity arm of the largest U.S. farm cooperative CHS Inc., donated $100,000, while $70,000 was pledged online from people across the United States and Canada, Jahr said.

In addition, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and South Dakota Sheep Growers Association established the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund with the Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support and relief assistance to those in the agriculture industry impacted by the blizzard of Oct. 4-7, 2013.

To donate to the Rancher Relief Fund, visit and search “Rancher Relief Fund” or mail checks to Black Hills Community Area Foundation/SD Rancher Relief Fund made out to the “Rancher Relief Fund.” Address: PO Box 231, Rapid City, 57709.

Also, the secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Michael Scuse, announced last week that conservation assistance is available from USDA for those affected by the blizzard. Scuse made the announcement in Rapid City during a meeting with western South Dakota producers.

USDA is offering a special signup through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help South Dakota producers address the impacts of the storm. In addition, Scuse encouraged producers to submit forms to the Farm Service Agency to document their losses with the hope that Congress will quickly pass a farm bill to reauthorize the livestock disaster assistance programs that have expired. The secretary also noted that the USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity has been working with Native American tribes in the state to connect them with a variety of USDA resources including conservation programs.

The EQIP signup runs through Nov. 15, 2013. EQIP assistance will help producers dispose of livestock carcasses, replace destroyed fencing, and rebuild shelterbelts and other conservation practices that were damaged by the storm. USDA will begin providing assistance to producers as soon as this week. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor