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Blizzard-stricken ranchers in the Dakotas can sign up for federal disaster aid next week

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — Ranchers in the Dakotas whose herds were devastated by an early October blizzard can begin signing up for federal disaster aid next week.

The federal Agriculture Department on Monday said farmers and ranchers can start signing up for disaster assistance programs authorized by the new federal farm bill on Tuesday, April 15. They include the Livestock Indemnity Program, which could cover as much as two-thirds of a rancher's loss.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 file photo, a dead cow lies in the snow near Sturgis, S.D., during an autumn blizzard.  The federal Agriculture Department says farmers and ranchers whose herds were devastated by the early October blizzard can start signing up for disaster assistance programs authorized by the new farm bill on Tuesday, April 15.  The snow storm that hit Oct. 4-5 killed more than 43,000 cattle and other livestock in South Dakota and more than 1,000 farm animals in North Dakota. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker, File)
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 file photo, a dead cow lies in the snow near Sturgis, S.D., during an autumn blizzard. The federal Agriculture Department says farmers and ranchers whose herds were devastated by the early October blizzard can start signing up for disaster assistance programs authorized by the new farm bill on Tuesday, April 15. The snow storm that hit Oct. 4-5 killed more than 43,000 cattle and other livestock in South Dakota and more than 1,000 farm animals in North Dakota. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker, File)

The snowstorm that hit Oct. 4-5 brought first rain and then heavy snow, killing more than 43,000 cattle and other livestock in South Dakota and more than 1,000 farm animals in southwestern North Dakota.

The farm bill was signed into law on Feb. 7, and the Agriculture Department agreed to expedite the Livestock Indemnity Program after pressure from congressional delegations in both Dakotas.

"These programs will provide long-awaited disaster relief for many livestock producers who have endured significant financial hardship from weather-related disasters while the programs were expired and awaiting congressional action," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Tuesday. "President Obama and I prioritized the implementation of these disaster assistance programs now that the Farm Bill has restored and strengthened them."

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