It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 head of cattle were lost due to an early October blizzard that struck the extreme northwest portions of Nebraska, and extended up into the northern Black Hills, where cattle losses were even worse.
On the heels of a record wildfire and drought season in 2012, this latest natural tragedy has caused great strain on Pine Ridge ranch families. There are a few assistance options available to ranch families impacted by the October blizzard in the Panhandle. Here are a few sources of help, compiled by University of Nebraska Extension educator, Jenny Nixon, in Sioux County.
- Nebraska Natural Resources Conservation Service EQIP funds for cattle disposal. Ranchers can check with local NRCS offices immediately to find out if they qualify for assistance under this program or other federal programs. The sign up deadline is Nov. 15, so don't delay. Also, check with NRCS for technical specifications even if you have already disposed of cattle or if you have other damages on the ranch like fencing or trees.
- Cattlemen's Relief Fund through the Chadron Community Foundation for immediate support. Applications can be obtained from UNL Extension offices or the First National Bank of Chadron. For more information, contact Steve Cleveland at 308-432-5552.
- Heifers for South Dakota, a licensed 501(c)3 non-profit under the umbrella of the North Central Resource Conservation and Development Association of South Dakota. Focused on providing breeding stock to family ranches with a primary income source in agriculture, the program is open to all impacted by the blizzard. For more information, go online at http://helpforsouthdakota.com.
- Farm Crisis Response Council – Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, for free, confidential mental health counseling for distressed ranch families. The hotline number is 800-464-0258, or learn more at www.interchurchministries.org/ruralresponse.html.
- Mental Health Support to help families cope with the losses of a natural disaster. Contacts include the State of Nebraska's Behavioral Health Region I office in Scottsbluff at 308-635-3173; Crossroads Resources in Chadron at 308-432-3920; and Western Community Health Resources at 308-432-8979 in Chadron, or 308-665-1770 in Crawford.
If you need more information, contact local UNL Extension offices in Sioux County at 308-668-2428, in Dawes County at 308-432-3373, or in Sheridan County at 308-327-2312.