Gruesome and sickening can only begin to describe the loss of life and economic hardship facing western South Dakota ranchers following a storm a week ago.
Governor Dennis Daugaard got a first hand look at the devastation, from the air, aboard a South Dakota National Guard Black Hawk helicopter Thursday. Daugaard said the black dots littering the landscape embody more than death. "They represent a livelihood for livestock producers."
How much of their livelihood, on a statewide level, is still being calculated.
"And we're looking for numbers there so we can get a sense of the breath of the problem,"said Daugaard.
It's estimated that it could be a multi-million dollar impact. But reimbursement hinges on a few things; namely documentation.
"Get at third party witness, keep receipts, ear tags, any other identifying objective evidence that the animals existed," said Daugaard.
According to South Dakota's Republican U.S. Senator John Thune, reimbursement depends on the passage of the Farm Bill. "The Farm Bill will make available direct assistance, 65-75 percent per animal. And the best thing they can do is document the loss, make sure they keep good records and when that Farm Bill passes and the Department of Ag issue the regulations, they will be able to make applications."
Disaster assistance is capped at $100,000 per producer, which is a drop in the bucket for some producers. That was evident even from a couple hundred feet above the ground.
"Very, very, very gripping," said Thune.
"My heart goes out to those families whose livelihood is threatened by such devastating loss," said Daugaard.
The 2008 Farm Bill expired in 2011 but if and when a new Farm Bill is passed, it will be retroactive.