Nebraska ranchers facing the daunting disposal of dozens to hundreds of cow and calf carcasses finally are getting some good news.
The USDA has announced an initiative to pay a set amount for each properly buried cow or calf.
Shaun Vickers, state resource conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the amount to be paid is being decided, but probably will be around $50 per 1,000 pounds of animal.
The NRCS also will share in the cost of re-seeding the burial pits back to grass.
About $165,000 has been requested to fund burial and reseeding in Nebraska, Vickers said.
Ranchers should sign up for the program through their local NRCS office, he said. The deadline is Nov. 15.
While deep burials are difficult in the rocky region of northwest Nebraska, animals have to be buried at least 4 feet deep, he said.
There is another catch, and it has to do with the partial government shutdown.
The aid is only available to cattle that haven't yet been buried, so ranchers can't be paid for cattle that were buried immediately after the storm, Vickers said.
Had the shutdown not occurred, the NRCS workers would have been able to get this program together sooner.
“The furlough caused a bit of a delay and we're trying to catch up as best we can,” he said.
“If we had had continuous operations, we would have been able to get out there the day after the blizzard, and we would have been able to put this signup together much faster.”
The program is called the Livestock Mortality Initiative and is being made available through the USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
It is available to ranchers in the Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District, which includes Sioux, Box Butte, Dawes and Sheridan Counties in northwest Nebraska.
For more information, see www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov.