Governor says drought relief must fit South Dakota’s needs

Governor says drought relief must fit South Dakota's needs Gov. Bill Janklow and state Agriculture Secretary Larry Gabriel announced Sept. 12 the South Dakota plan to improve the nation's system for drought aid. They want farmers and ranchers to be compensated fairly for the damage they've suffered and they want the damage calculated fairly.

Janklow and Gabriel want the federal government to change its system for distributing drought assistance. They proposed a scientific method for determining damage by comparing the actual precipitation and the normal precipitation in an area during the growing season.

"One size doesn't fit all in agriculture. The current system for drought relief isn't fair. The current system doesn't cover a lot of situations for livestock producers, such as the rancher who's had to sell off part or all of their herd because there hasn't been enough water and grass during the drought. The current system doesn't cover sheep or bison," Janklow said. "We need a better way. Our new system would cover all producers by figuring the actual impacts on crops and livestock forage. Our new system would send the most help to the producers who need the most help."

Janklow and Gabriel want Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use the growing season formula to calculate damage. Failing that, they want the federal government to give states the flexibility to design their own systems.

"Congress and USDA aren't able to write national laws and national regulations that fit every state and every situation," Janklow said. "In many other federal programs, Congress and the administration let states be flexible. That's the way block grants work. It's how Medicaid works. It's why welfare reform succeeded. It's how the highway program works."

Gabriel said his staff has calculated that preliminary estimates of drought damage to crops is $240.2 million and damage to forage is $241.8 million in South Dakota, based on the growing season formula. The estimates don't include impacts to other parts of the economy, such as stores and businesses.

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