Charity begins at home

Sen. Deb Fischer has asked for federal money to bail out ranchers hit by this month's snowstorm.

Sen. Deb Fischer has asked for federal money to bail out ranchers hit by this month’s snowstorm.

Little-noticed in the blizzard of news out of Washington early this month was a very real blizzard that swept northwestern Nebraska and western South Dakota.

Driven by winds of 70 mph,  a freak snowstorm Oct. 5 and 6 killed tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota and Nebraska.

Unseasonably warm temperatures meant that many cattle were caught unprotected on summer grazing grounds. Most had not developed winter coats yet. They froze to death, were driven to exhaustion by the unending winds or suffocated under five-foot snow drifts.

As state emergency officials struggled to bury ton after ton of dead cattle,  no one bothered to call the federal government. It was closed.

Even worse, the federal program that compensates producers for losses from livestock disasters had expired, and the passage of a new Farm Bill was nowhere on the horizon. Were the livestock producers of South Dakota and Nebraska to fend for themselves?

Nebraska’s delegation is stuffed with fiscally conservative Republicans and, as the government reopened, all vowed to continue the fight for less spending, lower deficits and smaller government. (Obamacare, the cause of the shutdown, was no longer a GOP bargaining point.)

Given the chance to prove her fiscal tight-fistedness back home, junior Senator Deb Fischer chose not to lower the hammer on the ranchers in western Nebraska — even though she voted against disaster recovery funds to the human victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Fischer has asked Farm Bill conferees to retroactively include the few thousand cattle or sheep lost in four northwestern Nebraska counties — estimates of dead cattle in South Dakota run from 10,000 to 30,000. And that assistance would be on top of the tax dollars spent to bury the carcasses, replace fencing and rebuild shelter belts.

“As you move forward with the 2013 farm bill conference deliberations,  I request that you consider the livestock losses impacting the lives and operations of many Nebraska producers,” Fischer said in a letter to those members of Congress in charge of hammering out the differences between House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill.

“Specifically, I ask that you ensure that coverage of these livestock losses is included as part of the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) within the farm bill conference report.”

Apparently federal spending is pork only when it goes to some other state.

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Update: Nine northwestern Nebraska counties became eligible for federal emergency loans subsequent to the storm. Ranchers need to apply before June 30 to the U.S. Farm Service Agency for loans to replace lost livestock and damaged buildings, fences or equipment.

4 thoughts on “Charity begins at home

  1. I know there are people who will be offended by the use of the word “charity.” The truth is, however, that you would be hard pressed to find any other industry in America that enjoys more government largess than agriculture. Most industries are cyclical, but there are no bailouts for builders or real estate agents when the housing industry craters due to irresponsible regulation. Likewise, there will be no subsidies to the retailers hurt by a loss of consumer confidence due to a government shutdown just before the holidays. If there is an industry in America that has its assets more protected by the federal government, I’d like to know what it is.

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  2. The Sandy stall had one small consequence: When Moore, Oklahoma, was hit by the tornado that pretty much leveled the town, Oklahoma Senator Coburn made a glib remark on television about how the state had sufficient funds to could handle it without federal assistance, but that they would still accept disaster relief.

    I, for the first time in my adult life, didn’t send my contribution to the Red Cross or other disaster relief NGOs I like to help the people of Moore: They can build it. So says their TP Senator, who held out against the victims of Sandy getting what has always been pretty much standard assistance from the Federal Government..

    That is my new standard: If the state or disaster area is represented by some ultra-right obstructionist, I skip the donation and send it instead to the DCCC (for example).

    Not very Christian on my part, I know, but neither is denying children, elderly, veterans, lower rank married soldiers, and people just down on their luck or underemployed the the simple decency of SNAP benefits that are adequate to stretch out a whole month or shutting down the government for 16 days, regardless of the human cost, to prove and to get nothing.

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  3. *An fascinating discussion is worth comment. I feel that you should write much more on this topic, it may possibly not be a taboo topic but usually individuals are not enough to speak on such topics. Towards the next. Cheers

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