FROMBERG - As flooding cleanup continues and government money rolls in to help those whose homes were damaged, farmers and ranchers in Fromberg said they were told they will receive no help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Nobody’s trying to gain on anything. We are just trying to get our lives back,” Fromberg farmer and rancher Jay Stetson said on Thursday. Stetson's home wasn’t damaged, but he and his wife, Tina, estimate they have at least $500,000 in damage on their 500-acre ranch.
“We need some assistance from some of these government officials that will find us some grants or some emergency money that’s been set aside so we can rebuild. And I'm thankful for what they’ve done, but it’s not enough right now,” Jay said.
Agriculture is Montana's top industry, an industry Montanans depend on for food on their plates. Now after historic flooding on the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone, many farmers and ranchers are left picking up the pieces on their own.
Tina Stetson has been working long days trying to repair her ranch with her husband, while also making phone calls attempting to get some sort of assistance.
The federal Farm Service Agency "will help with some of the crop, with some of the seed, that sort of thing. But as far as reworking the ground, the cost of the fuel or the equipment that’s needed, that’s going to have to be brought in to help farmers be able to make that ground usable again. Like there’s no assistance for that,” Tina said.
Tina says they are only given one option when calling agencies for help - they are told to apply for a small business loan.
“So, farmers and ranchers are already stretched anyways. So now you want us to go get another loan to help rebuild what we lost, but yet we pay taxes and that tax money is helping homes and other people. Why can’t it help the ag people, too?” said Tina.
“If they can get the Yellowstone Park $50 million within 24 hours, don’t tell me they can’t get these farmers and ranchers some money within 24 hours,” Jay said.
The Stetsons say they are frustrated and, like many, never anticipated to be going through this, but they are not giving up hope to get help.
“We’re not the loud voice. We’re the conservatives out here, so we’re not going to be crying (the) blues and everything else. But the story needs to be told. We need some assistance out here. And it's federal tax dollars that we paid in all our lives for this kind of stuff,” said Jay.