In South Dakota, we pride ourselves on our hard work, persistence and self-reliance. Our ancestors tamed the prairie and lived through difficult times, and these South Dakota values have been passed down through the generations.
We also learn in South Dakota to care for our neighbors. Whether it's a natural disaster or a personal tragedy, South Dakotans always come together to lend a helping hand to those in need. We learn that early in our lives. It becomes so ingrained in us that when we are needed, we simply show up. That's just part of being a neighbor, and in tough times, South Dakota is one big neighborhood.
This is a very tough time in western South Dakota. Our friends and neighbors there continue to respond to the recent disaster, during which much of West River was hit with one of the largest blizzards in our history. Homeowners lost trees, experienced property damage and went without power for days. Businesses suffered from collapsed roofs or other damage that will require repairs before they can reopen.
Many ranchers suffered devastating losses. The early winter weather created a "perfect storm" that killed thousands -- probably tens of thousands -- of cattle and other livestock. These animals mean something more than just net worth, and losing them has put our ranchers in an unthinkable position.
We need to do what we can to help our friends and neighbors during their time of need. If you are able to help those affected by the blizzard, please call 211 or 877-708-4357 to offer your assistance.
In addition, a Rancher Relief Fund has been set up to help our livestock producers. The fund is a cooperative effort of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, the Stockgrowers Association, the Sheep Growers Association and the Black Hills Area Community Foundation. Linda and I made a donation earlier this week, and I hope you will consider a gift as well.