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Agweek Editorial: Look for ways to help out those in need

Everyone in or around agriculture has been affected by catastrophe — a blizzard that buries the cows, a drought that shrivels the crops or a hailstorm that obliterates them, a flood that soaks the fields, or illness, injury or death that delays the planting or haying or harvesting.

Like everyone in the agricultural community, we watched, sickened, as wildfires moved across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and several other states. Families have buried six loved ones, several of whom died trying to save their livestock and ranches. Ranchers went into smouldering pastures to find what was left of their herds, only for many to have had to put their animals down, ending their suffering from severe burns.

When your livelihood abruptly goes up in flames around you, it would be easy for hopelessness to set in. But agriculture has a way of rallying for one another, no national headlines needed.

We are heartened and proud of the efforts that have cropped up, both locally and nationally within the agriculture community, to help those in need. The fires barely have made a blip on the national news, but through grassroots efforts led by agriculture groups, help is heading toward the victims of the fires.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has a running list of ways to help at www.beefusa.org/firereliefresources.aspx. The list includes contact points in the states affected and information about the needs in various communities.

Efforts small and large are taking the things needed to the people who need it: hay and feed, seed, milk replacer, fencing supplies and funds, among other items.

Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association and Prairie Creek Seed plans to provide forage and cover crop seed to repair damaged pastures and protect soil now bare due to fire damage. Details are available at www.mnsca.org/resources.

Several South Dakota ranchers already took off with loads of hay, and South Dakota Farm Bureau is working to coordinate donations and aid. Contact the South Dakota Farm Bureau at 605-353-8050 or email julie@sdfbf.org.

Mobridge Livestock on March 14 held a hay auction and donation sale, reminding people of the help received by South Dakota ranchers when an early-season blizzard devastated herds in 2013.

James Dykema in Strasburg, N.D., has a commercial driver's license and a stack-moving business. He's planning to take one load of hay at his own expense and would be willing to take more loads if there's help to defray costs. Dykema can be reached at 701-321-1331, and more information is available at the Facebook group Fire Relief from ND-SD.

This, of course, is far from an exhaustive list. Many more people have jumped to help when the opportunity arose.

Why are those of us in farming and ranching so quick to pitch in when someone faces hard times? It's because we've all been there. We've looked devastation in the eye, and with the help of our neighbors and strangers, we've made it through and kept going.

James Dykema once lost his dairy barn to a fire, says his wife, Nicole. And Nicole's grandmother told her about a time in the 1980s when her family lost their grazing land in the Bull Mountains of Montana to a fire.

"People from all over the country kept them going," Nicole Dykema says.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone dealing with the aftermath of the blazes. And we strongly urge everyone to do what they can to help those ranchers find a new normal. Help them feed and fence in the animals they have left, and give them the tools to pick up the pieces left behind by the wildfires.

If our region were in that situation, we are confident they'd do the same for us.

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