Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place in looking out for her constituents. The tea party conservative is South Dakota’s lone congressional representative, and she has been consistent in her voting to limit government and cut spending. Now she is finding it difficult to find cooperation from some colleagues in acquiring federal help for South Dakota ranchers impacted by early October’s winter storm Atlas.
As ranchers in western South Dakota pick up the pieces after the fall blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle, the government shutdown, an expired farm bill and lack of federal aid are leaving the state’s $7 billion cattle industry reeling.
When did helping people who truly need help become a question? If the federal government can find $325,000 to spend on developing a robotic squirrel to study how a rattlesnake will react to it, you’d think it could help taxpayers who really need assistance. Or how about the $3.8 million our government spent to study the “conflict” between humans and elephants?
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One cross that Noem bears is that she voted “no” on a measure to help Hurricane Sandy victims a year ago. Representatives from the Northeast haven't forgotten that, and it’s apparently time to return the gesture. But Noem isn’t getting much cooperation from her fellow tea party pals, either. Her petition to get national disaster status for the area is drawing only the sound of crickets.
On a relaed note, I’ve received some repulsive emails from different folks across the country who maintain that the blizzard is all a hoax, or that ranchers are rich enough to weather the losses on their own. Ranchers don’t need or deserve a government handout, they contend.
The affected ranchers lost anywhere from 5-100% of their cattle herds; this is a blow to a lifetime of work and achievement. While those affected don’t live in a populated area, these ranchers and lost cattle are integral to our nations’ food security.
Thankfully, there are grassroots efforts underway to help these ranchers. Many good, well-intentioned folks across the country are donating their time, talent and treasure. These are efforts that are greatly appreciated, and attest to the virtue and generosity of folks on the land – we look out for each other. Unfortunately, Congress doesn’t share that same caring conscience.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Congress should help the South Dakota ranchers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
More Winter Storm Atlas information: