Washington Post: Rep. Noem faces natural and political disaster after South Dakota blizzard

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Contact: South Dakota Democratic Party headquarters, 605-271-5405.

Noem draws national attention from Washington Post for “natural and political” disaster after blizzard

Sioux Falls, SD (October 16, 2013) – Congresswoman Kristi Noem may have trouble convincing fellow Republicans to support federal assistance for west river ranchers devastated by the October blizzard, according to a story on Noem by the Washington Post. Noem has spent two years decrying federal spending and voted against disaster relief for communities hard hit by Hurricane Sandy last year. 

Now that the disaster has struck South Dakota ranchers, will Noem’s plead for federal assistance draw fellow Republican support?

South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Deb Knecht released the following statement in response to the story on Noem:

“South Dakotans are rallying to support our ranchers west river, but are Republicans in Washington going to listen to Congresswoman Noem’s plead for help after she’s spent two years denying federal assistance to other communities hard hit by disaster?

“Noem’s tea party mentality has gone too far. Noem has forced a government shutdown that’s hurting response efforts to the blizzard. Noem hasn’t been able to pass a farm bill without gutting support for hungry families. And now, I just hope Noem still has enough credibility in Washington to marshall federal resources for our west river ranchers when they need it most.”


Rep. Noem faces national and political disaster after South Dakota blizzard

By Joann Weiner, Updated: October 16 at 8:44 am
Washington Post, She the People 

South Dakota’s Republican representative Kristi Noem has a problem.

In early October, a blizzard roared through the Black Hills of western South Dakota, burying tens of thousands of cattle under several feet of snow and leaving South Dakota’s $7 billion cattle industry reeling.

The storm, nicknamed Atlas, began with heavy rain that soaked the livestock before the rain turned into a snowy blizzard with hurricane-force gusts that dumped up to five feet of snow on the cattle, freezing them to death as their hooves became stuck in the mud, keeping them from returning to their ranch homes. Atlas was particularly devastating because it arrived before the cattle had grown their winter coats and before ranchers had herded them to low-lying, tree-lined pastures that provide shelter from the harsh South Dakota winter.

Normally, cattle ranchers would go to the local office of the USDA Farm Service Agency to file claims for their losses. They generally have 30 days to apply.

Now, however, those farm offices are closed because of the government shut down. When offices are closed, claims can’t be filed. And if claims can’t be filed, assistance can’t be paid.

But, closed farm offices and dead cows aren’t Noem’s only problem; in fact, they’re not even her biggest problem.

Her biggest problem may be convincing her fellow Republicans that support for South Dakota ranchers is an exception to the rule that the federal government is spending too much of the American taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

A week ago, Noem went to the floor of the House of Representative to recount a story she heard from a South Dakota rancher: “He found what he called the trail of death, about 200 of his 600 cows were dead leading up to and throughout a draw.” Noem insists that the federal government help these ranchers due to the “unprecedented” nature of the blizzard that blew through her state.

Unfortunately, Noem’s request for additional federal spending comes at a time when Congress hasn’t approved any federal spending at all. That’s why much of the federal government is largely closed for business.

In many ways, Noem has brought this problem upon herself. She’s part of the group of House Republicans who in September refused to fund the federal government unless the Democrats agreed either to defund or to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Without that agreement, the federal government essentially shut down on October 1.

Days later, the blizzard hit South Dakota.

Now, Noem would like the federal government to increase its spending.

Noem said that due to the millions of dollars of losses they’ve suffered, counties and the South Dakota governor are expected to “petition the president for disaster status” so they can receive Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. As the blizzard roared through South Dakota, Noem said that “there may be disagreement over certain parts of the federal budget, but not on FEMA.”

(South Dakota is especially reliant on federal funding since it doesn’t have a personal or a corporate income tax and a sales tax that, at 4 percent, is the second lowest rate among the states that tax sales.)

Noem doesn’t just want temporary federal assistance. She’d also like a permanent increase in assistance by expanding the livestock indemnity program in the farm bill.

Many ranchers rely on subsidized federal insurance to cover their losses. For example, one South Dakota farmer reports losing 96 percent of his herd of 100 cattle at a cost of $250,000. He wasn’t insured against this loss, he says, because storm insurance is too expensive, according to a report in USA Today. (Many of the 50 million Americans who aren’t insured today because health insurance is too expensive would obtain subsidized insurance through the ACA.)

While it’s too early to know the full extent of the losses to South Dakota’s ranchers, early figures from the head of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association suggest that 5 percent of the area’s 1.5 million cattle have been killed.

Calves sell for around $1,000 a head and cows sell for more than $1,500. (It’s difficult to get current prices due to the shutdown.)

Losses could amount to upwards of $100 million. If cattle deaths rise to the 15 percent to 20 percent of entire herds estimated by the head of the National Farms Union, as reported in the Bismarck Tribune, losses could exceed $400 million. The estimates are likely to rise as the melting snow reveals more and more cattle carcasses.

Noem is on the agriculture committee and voted in favor of the House’s version of the farm bill that cuts $39 billion in funding from the food stamps program over ten years. Some 2.8 million low-income people would lose benefits with this measure. The Senate has refused to go along with these cuts.

Noem is positioned to help craft a new farm bill.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) named her to the conference committee that will work on crafting a farm bill to replace the one that expired last month.

Estimates of the cost of the expanded assistance for ranchers that Noem has sponsored aren’t available.

While South Dakota’s ranchers are facing a terrible disaster, they aren’t the only ones to suffer from weather-related damage. Natural disasters hit the United States all the time, whether it’s hurricanes in the Gulf states, widespread droughts in the Midwest, tornadoes in the panhandle states, or “super” storms like Sandy that ravaged the East coast a year ago.

That’s why the federal government provides emergency assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Act and ongoing assistance through programs like those in the farm bill.

Noem voted against federal assistance for victims of super storm Sandy in New York and New Jersey.

Nevertheless, she’s at the front of the line asking the federal government for money to help victims of South Dakota’s early-October blizzard.

It appears that Noem is against federal spending until she’s for it.

And, that’s her biggest problem. It’s hard to justify spending when your own constituents are hurting when you oppose it when others’ are hurting.

Now that Noem appears to see the benefits of federal spending for ranchers when they are suffering, perhaps she’ll change her vote on the farm bill and allow federal spending for the safety net that provides needed food assistance to millions of low-income Americans when they’re suffering.

© The Washington Post Company

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SDDP Chair Deb Knecht calls on Noem to end GOP shutdown after devastating cattle losses from October blizzard

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sioux Falls, SD (October 10, 2013) – With cattle losses mounting west river after a devastating early October blizzard, South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Deb Knecht called on Congresswoman Kristi Noem to immediately stop holding government operations hostage in her futile attempt to block the Affordable Care Act.

“In the face of devastating cattle losses west river, Noem has been defiant in her demands to block the Affordable Care Act before opening government offices that can provide assistance to South Dakota ranchers,” says Knecht. “That’s why I’m calling on Noem to drop her demands to block the Affordable Care Act and immediately open the federal government today.”

South Dakota ranchers and ranching organizations have been frustrated by the federal government shutdown. South Dakota Cattleman’s Association executive director Jodie Anderson told the Rapid City Journal, “A lot of the government agencies that we would normally be turning to for answers are furloughed. So there’s this sort of timing issue that’s enhancing the frustration out here in cattle country.”

“South Dakotans are rallying to support our ranchers west river,” says Knect, “but because Noem and her tea party friends in the House forced a government shutdown to block the Affordable Care Act, our ranchers can’t rely on Farm Service Agency offices for assistance.” 

Knecht says there’s any easy fix for Noem to provide immediate help to wist river ranchers: “Congresswoman Noem – for the sake of South Dakota ranchers, please drop your demands to block the Affordable Care Act and immediately reopen the federal government today.”

Knecht notes that Noem and House Republicans have blocked efforts to reopen the government 12 times in the last 10 days. 



House Republicans Have Voted Twelve Times Against Efforts to Re-Open the Government, in Hopeless Effort to Deny Funding for Health Care Reform. Since the federal government shutdown, House Republicans have voted twelve times against efforts to vote on a clean government funding resolution by allowing consideration of the Senate-passed continuing resolution. [H Res 370, Vote #509, 10/02/13; HJ Res 70, Vote #512, 10/02/13; HR 3230, Vote #515, 10/03/13; HJ Res 72, Vote #517, 10/03/13; H Res 371, Vote #519, 10/04/13; HJ Res 85, Vote #521, 10/04/13; HJ Res 75, Vote #523, 10/04/13; H J Res 77,  Vote #527, 10/7/13; HJ Res 84, Vote #529, 10/08/13; H Res 373, Vote #531, 10/08/13; HR 3273, Vote #533, 10/08/13, Vote #536, 10/09/13]

Thune & Noem Defiant in Face of Government Shutdown: “Mount Rushmore will close, certain food assistance programs will stop operating, and 800,000 federal employees across the nation will be furloughed today, after the Republican-controlled House forced the first partial government shutdown in 17 years.The shutdown came after House Republicans demanded that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, defund or delay parts of President Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul in exchange for passage of a bill that would continue government spending. Obama and congressional Democrats have remained steadfast in their refusal to give in to Republican demands.” [Rapid City Journal, 10/1/13]

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Johnson: Government Shutdown Affects Response to Ranchers in Snow Storm Aftermath

Our hearts go out to west river ranchers today as they climb out of the snow to discover startling losses to their herds. Anyone who’s raised animals knows the loss takes as much an emotional toll as it does a financial toll.

And to add insult to injury, the House GOP shutdown strategy – supported strongly by Congresswoman Kristi Noem – has closed all of South Dakota’s Farm Service Agency offices, so cattle producers have no where to turn for help to document their losses.

Senator Tim Johnson released the following statement today:


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today issued the following statement on the effects of the federal government shutdown on USDA’s ability to respond to ranchers in the aftermath of this weekend’s major snowstorm.

“While total losses are still being determined, this major blizzard has killed huge numbers of livestock across western South Dakota. Exacerbating these losses is the fact that the government shutdown has shuttered USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) offices across the state. As a result, producers don’t even have anyone to contact at USDA for assistance in documenting losses.

The closure of FSA offices is another demonstration of the real impact the government shutdown is having on South Dakotans. Like the snow storm, the government shutdown is causing major disruptions in people’s lives and every day business.

While snowstorms happen, government shutdowns are unnatural events. The House needs to pass a clean Continuing Resolution not just for the sake of South Dakota’s ranchers, but for the good of the country.”


Do you think South Dakota ranchers who are looking for help in a time of disaster care about Kristi Noem’s political hostage-taking right now?  Republicans like Congresswoman Noem have to open the government right away. And they can with a simple vote.

Call Congresswoman Kristi Noem at 202-225-2801 today to demand a response.

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Kristi Carves $39 Billion from Food Assistance


That might be the only word that describes yesterday evening’s vote by House Republicans like Congresswoman Kristi Noem to slash $39 billion from food stamps and deny 3.8 million Americans the nutrition they desperately need.

At a time in our economy recovery when 22 million Americans are still looking for jobs and South Dakota’s low wage jobs aren’t paying enough to keep families out of poverty, food stamps feed families with hungry children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

This is America. Our farmers feed the world. Congresswoman Noem is a farmer. Why won’t she help feed hungry families right here at home?

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Johnson Receives NFU’s “Friend of the Family Farmer” Lifetime Achievement Award

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today received the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) 2013 “Friend of the Family Farmer” award. The award was presented at a reception coinciding with NFU’s Fall Legislative Fly-In.

“I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award from the National Farmers Union,” said Johnson. “I have enjoyed a real partnership with the South Dakota Farmers Union and National Farmers Union as we fought together to develop a farm bill that supports family farmers, to maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard, and to create our Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program.”

“Together we have achieved real victories for family farmers and ranchers,” Johnson said. “There are challenges ahead like getting a farm bill this year but working with advocates like SD Farmers Union and National Farmers Union I know we can get it done.”

National Farmers Union’s “Friend of the Family Farmer” lifetime achievement award is presented to those who have been lifelong supporters of family agriculture and Farmers Union values.


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House rejects farm bill →

Chairman’s Note: Last year, the Republican led House of Representatives refused to even vote on a modernized farm bill. Today, Republicans proposed an ultra-conservative farm bill that failed on the House floor. It used to be that the farm bill brought our elected officials together. Today, Republicans are playing politics with a farm bill that’s tearing elected officials apart.

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The distance between Thune’s desk, SD fields, and the farm bill →

Chairman’s Note: As a fourth generation farm kid, our own Data & Design Director Abby Bischoff has always taken pride in South Dakota’s elected officials coming together to support our family farmers and ranchers. So when Senator John Thune voted against the farm bill this week, she took some time to share her thoughts. I hope you will read them.

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The distance between Thune’s desk, SD fields, and the farm bill

As a fourth generation farm kid, I’ve always taken some solace that my legislators in Washington DC will always protect the way of life that has defined our state for generations. Strip away the party affiliation and the other divisive issues and at the end of the day they would fall on the side of farmers and ranchers. They’d risk a little political clout to ensure protections and policies are in place to help the people that feed the world and work from dawn until dusk to do so.

Yesterday, Senator John Thune became the first South Dakota Senator I can remember to vote against South Dakota. He voted against the Farm Bill and then had the audacity to throw partisan talking points back here to South Dakota as his reasoning.

I worked for a farm organization in college.  We worked with our federal elected officials on a daily basis and they were our partners and allies. We met with them – Senators Tim Johnson and Senator Tom Daschle and Representative Bill Janklow – when we visited Capitol Hill. We had honest conversations about issues facing farmers and ranchers. We all came together in one room to talk about the issues that affected our shared home. What we lacked in population, we made up for in team of legislators who were a force on Capitol Hill. Partly because of character and partly because of the unified front they became for South Dakota’s agricultural community.

So it seems the decades of cooperation for like-minded South Dakota officials are gone, for now anyway – swallowed up in a sea of presidential aspirations and pressure from extreme factions of the Republican party. As I watch my little brother take on the risks and rewards of taking over our family farm, and see photos of his 4 year old twins riding in the cab of the tractor, smiles beaming as they help their daddy plant soybeans, I hope someone is showing Senator Thune a similar thing in this office. I know the fields of South Dakota probably feel far away from Thune’s desk in Washington DC, but they’re still home to me.


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Daugaard Vetoes Fertilizer Research Bill →

Agriculture is the backbone of our state economy, yet year after year Governor Daugaard keeps disappointing the agriculture industry. Every year in office, Daugaard has vetoed a rural bill, whether it was the roadship funding bill in 2011, a repeal of the straw tax in 2012, or the fertilizer fee for research bill this year. South Dakota farmers are asking for investments. Governor Daugaard just won’t listen to them.

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Sen. Johnson Discusses Ethanol In SF →

Chairman’s Note: Some folks in Washington are trying to undo the great investments in the ethanol industry we’ve made for South Dakota farmers. But Senator Johnson is speaking truth to power. Johnson is protecting the ethanol industry, so South Dakota continues to grow.

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