Rep. Noem visits South Dakota; speaks with ranchers
U.S. Representative Kristi Noem made a stop in the area Sunday to survey the damage West River sustained in last weekend's severe winter storm.
The congresswoman spent the morning visiting with the local ranchers near Union Center. She asked what specifically they need to see out of Washington as far as assistance to help rebuild after the storm.
Noem pushed the fact that Congress needs to pass a Farm Bill, so that ranch families affected by the storm get some help.
But she says even after visits to leaders in the House of Representatives, Noem acknowledges that she's got a long road ahead of her to bat for these disaster programs.
"The challenge that we have is that this storm largely just hit South Dakota. So it's not like I can go to our neighboring states that were impacted as badly as South Dakota was and create the delegation of help to get these policies put into place," Noem said. "I've got to be much more aggressive in telling that story, getting out there and talking to the leadership team, talking to the members of the Senate on the Farm Bill conference committee, and letting them know the urgency of these programs."
Noem later took a tour of hard hit areas near Highway 34.
Coming from a ranch background herself, it was important she make the trip to see and hear just exactly how much was taken from livestock producers.
"These guys are dealing with that on such a level that I've never experienced and there's nothing they could have done to prevent it," Noem said. "Emotionally, this is a very, very tough day for me because i know how they feel on a certain level but I can't even imagine the heartache that they go through. They love their cows."
Noem later met with local mayors for a meeting in Sturgis. When she returns to Washington, she vowed to get right to work, as she was named one of the House of Representatives conferees to the Farm Bill Conference Committee.
For those ranchers that Noem spoke with Sunday, not only did Winter Storm Atlas rip away hundreds of cattle, many remarked that it also stained the generations of work western South Dakota families built.
For ranchers like Les Shaw, an uneasy mark of failure weighs heavy on their conscious.
Shaw says now is the time the entire community get behind these folks and show them that self-worth is not connected to net-worth.
"I don't look at the land or my ranch as particularly my ground, it's my family's ground," Shaw said. "It's my great-grand dad's. And these people that are looking at these huge losses have this deep fear that they broke the chain, that they dropped the ball. It shouldn't have to be that way."
The South Dakota Stockgrower's Association said Sunday the out pouring of support from around the state shows just how committed South Dakota is to the recovery of these ranchers.
You can help to. You can donate to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund here: