Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why the E15 Whoopla? E30 Offers So Much More!

Posted on: November 26th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

By Doug Sombke, SDFU President, November 20, 2018

My ears still ring with all the whoopla surrounding the recent decision to lift EPA regulations banning the sale of E15 during summer months.

This is a good first step, right? Well, I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but, for all the excitement surrounding this decision, and many touting this decision as “the best thing since sliced bread,” nothing has come of it.

Infrastructure doesn’t seem to be expanding to make room for a year-round market. And, if you take a look at current ethanol markets, they aren’t responding favorably to the news.

In the meantime, out here in Corn Country, South Dakota, our commodity prices are equally as unaffected.

As we wait and see, South Dakota Farmers Union joins with many asking for the EPA to go further and approve E30. Because, even if infrastructure expands and consumption of E15 goes up, the prediction is that E15 will only boost corn demand by about 300-400 million bushels. Whereas, because E30 is a premium quality fuel, it could result in increased ethanol demand of 15 billion gallons and corn demand of 4 to 5 billion bushels.

Not to mention the fact that because of E30s octane rating, it does not need cancer causing benzene, resulting in additional health benefits.

Five million bushels and eliminating carcinogens from the air … now that’s something to get excited about.


Truth in Labeling – A Perfect Time to Share Our Story

Posted on: November 14th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

By Brett Kenzy, Gregory cattle producer, posted November 14, 2018

Just a few weeks ago, I stood before the U.S. Department of Agriculture in D.C. to testify for clear, unambiguous labeling of meat. We asked that the USDA and Food Safety Inspection Service not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat.

Before I shared my 3 minute testimony, I spent nearly a day and half listening to what others had to say. After listening to others testify, a few things became clear.

  1. Cattle producers are on the same sheet of music. Now, there were very few cattle producers in attendance. But, those who did show up to testify, had similar testimony to me and the other four members of South Dakota Farmers Union. (How ironic that a COOL advocate such as myself, would be standing beside NCBA representatives and together we’d be testifying for clear, unambiguous, truthful labeling.)
  2. There are huge misconceptions on how cattle is raised in the U.S. Those promoting cell-cultured tissue be labeled as “meat,” refer to it as clean meat. Acting as though cattle producers carelessly and wastefully use antibiotics to raise our cattle.

The other side is using these misconceptions to push through their agenda.

I see this meat-labeling discussion as an excellent opportunity for the beef industry to get the real story out about how our cattle are raised.

We need to share the fact that today, we don’t do things the way grandpa did. We are capturing runoff and applying manure scientifically.

We use antibiotics judiciously. In fact, over the last two years, our industry has revolutionized the way antibiotics are given to livestock. Just like in humans, antibiotics are only given to animals with a prescription. And, once they are given, there are closely monitored withdrawal times.

This brings me to another point. Consumer groups are on our side. They want truthful labeling.

When we listened to consumer groups’ testimony, they were concerned about what artificial products go into lab-cultured tissue, asking questions like, “Will this cause cancer?” “What long-term studies have been done to show it won’t cause cancer?” And, challenging the reference to “clean meat,” by bringing up concerns over antibiotics and growth hormones used in the lab to artificially imitate what a cow’s body would do naturally.

Like the other cattle producers who testified, I am not against this technology. I am for truthful labeling.

I am an advocate for truthful and transparent labeling because I am passionate about what I do everyday as a fourth generation cattle producer.

How exciting is it that I get to spend my life creating a product that I feed to my own family. My brother George and I (pictured at right) and our families eat what we produce. My extended family does too.

We want consumers to have a choice. Ambiguous labels which create an illusion of choice are my primary concern.

The truth is in the labeling. Integrity matters.

Let’s share our story and comments with the USDA and Food Safety and Inspection Service. Post your comment today at

And, let our congressional leaders know how you feel.

When we were in D.C. we sat down with Thune’s staff, and they knew nothing about the possibility that lab-cultured tissue could be labeled as “meat.”

You can reach them at the contact below:

Senator John Thune
Phone: (202) 224-2321


Senator Mike Rounds
Phone: (202) 224-5842


Harvest Lunches Are Good for the Soul

Posted on: October 17th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

As the old saying goes, the way to a “farmer’s heart is through their belly.” (OK, a little different than the original, but you get the point.)

Making sure producers feel appreciated is the goal of South Dakota Farmers Union annual harvest lunch program, it’s one way we can say ‘thank you’ to South Dakota family farmers for what they do to feed the rest of us and care for the land.

Farmers are the workforce behind our state’s No. 1 industry.

Throughout harvest 2018, SDFU staff delivers hundreds of harvest lunches while drivers are unloading grain at several South Dakota elevators. They also make deliveries to the field. Most of our SDFU team has a farm or ranch background and understand how busy and stressful the harvest season is.

And, with prices and weather making Harvest 2018 difficult for many, by providing sustenance for the body we hope our lunches can give a boost to the soul.

We want our farmers to know how much we value the work that they do, day-in-and-day-out, to feed the world and sustain South Dakota’s rural communities.

Prime Rib from a Petri Dish???

Posted on: October 17th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments


(Image courtesy of The Atlantic)

By Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union & fourth-generation Conde, S.D., cattle producer (Oct. 17, 2018)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat.

“Really?” you may ask. “This could mean that I could buy a product labeled as hamburger or steak at the grocery store and it could actually be tissue created in a lab from animal cells?”


If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers’ reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat – then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

Click here and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts.

The comment period is open until November 26, 2018.

This deadline brings to mind an American holiday with meat at the center of the dinner table – Thanksgiving. Just think, if we don’t convince the USDA to enforce fair and honest food labeling, next year’s Thanksgiving turkey may have never gobbled. We could be sharing a meal of lab-cultured goo disguised as a turkey drumstick.

All consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing and eating.

And, South Dakota’s more than 15,000 livestock producers should not have to give up their market-share to a lab-cultured product, that is labeled as meat.

The definition of “meat” should be restricted to the tissue or flesh of animals that have been raised and harvested in the traditional manner.

The truth is in the labeling.


S.D. Farmers Union is fighting for Livestock Producers next week in Washington D.C. and we want to hear what you think about cell-cultured protein. Please take this short survey and share your thoughts with us so we can be your voice in Washington D.C. and tell the USDA/FDA what the people in South Dakota are saying about cell- cultured protein.

Go here and take our 1-minute survey:

Cooperatives Remain Relevant to South Dakotans

Posted on: October 9th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

By Doug Sombke, President SDFU, October 9, 2018

Supporting the cooperative mission by providing policy support as well as cooperative education to rural youth has been a large focus of South Dakota Farmers Union for more than a century.

It continues today because cooperatives remain relevant to South Dakota’s rural communities, farmers and ranchers, serving as a lifeline to technology, electricity, water and many necessary products and services.

Because cooperative boards are made up of members, elected by the members, member/owners’ needs are heard, understood and addressed.

Unlike a corporate model, where the bottom line is often the only consideration, cooperatives remain a fair platform where members’ interests are come first. Annual meetings are open to members and our vote counts.

And, because cooperatives are member-owned, the more business done at the cooperative, the greater the share in profits. Which also means, even during tough times, we all share the burden – spreading the risk and better insuring today’s cooperatives are around to serve us into the future.



Cooperative Model Relevant Today

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

In light of Cooperative Month, SD Farmers Union decided to check in and see how things are going for Agtegra, since the February 2018 unification of two legacy-rich, farmer-owned cooperatives – South Dakota Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator.

The cooperative model is proving itself during these tough times in agriculture, says Board President Hal Clemensen.

“There are definite savings that come from not duplicating services. Going into the merger, we knew the farming economy was tough. This was one reason we felt so strongly the merger had to happen,” Clemensen explains of the CEO Chris Pearson agrees, “As we think about the ability of our cooperative to deal with tariffs, use space wisely and serve farmers going into harvest, we are better able to serve as Agtegra than we would have been alone.”

To ensure better service through the massive undertaking of merging two cooperatives, the board and employee leadership put together 13 teams to strategically analyze and unify. “We really made a conscious effort to try and take the best of both cooperatives when we put Agtegra together,” Clemensen explains. “And, because we are a new cooperative, we are not tied to old ways that may not work for our patrons anymore. It’s refreshing to be able to make changes, like making basis more beneficial for producers because we are not locked into old ways of either cooperative.”

For example, Agtegra has improved market power, explains Mike Nickolas, Executive Vice President of Grain. “By pooling our bushels together and offering larger amounts to export facilities or domestic flour mills, we’re able to secure a little better price than we would have as separate cooperatives.”

Pearson adds that this spring’s fertilizer season also highlighted synergies. “If inventories got tight in one location or if there was a facility breakdown, we were able to shift over to a different facility and share equipment and people across all facilities to support our farmers. Throughout the growing season we’ve seen similar synergies and we expect these to increase over time.”

Only six months in, Clemensen says that although there are areas where Agtegra has room for improvement, he is excited for the future. “We are able to serve farmers more efficiently, building a better cooperative today and also maintaining a strong cooperative for future farmers, farmers’ kids and farmers’ grandkids.”

Pearson says Agtegra Cooperative is a good example of the value of the cooperative system.

“In my mind, it’s all about the expectations of our ownership – that is why the co-op system is strong today and should stay strong for generations to come. Farmers should own the retail system they do business with. Because of farmer ownership, cooperatives make decisions that over the long-term return benefits to farmers, not a quarterly earnings call or group of investors from New York City,” Pearson explains.

To learn more about Agtegra Cooperative, visit

An Empty Chair is Difficult to Visit With

Posted on: September 27th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

By Doug Sombke, SDFU President, September 27, 2018

When I saw Representative Noem represented by an empty chair during the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations Candidate Forum last Friday, it didn’t surprise me.

In my experience, Kristi Noem does not show up.

Let me explain.

Agriculture is our state’s number one industry, and yet, when she held a seat on the House Agriculture Committee, she skipped 16 of 20 committee hearings.

Then, when she took the opportunity to move to the House Ways and Means Committee, she chose to vacate her seat on the Agriculture Committee.

Now, I know of other agriculture state’s House Representatives who have maintained a position on two committees so their state “maintained a seat at the table.” I encouraged Noem to do this when she called to let me know her decision.

Not Noem. She opted to let another state fill her seat.

I understand the frustration the members of the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations must have felt.

An empty chair is difficult to visit with.

However, when you have Neom’s healthcare voting record, her decision not to participate is understandable.

Four times she has voted to minimize Medicare Coverage and privatize Social Security.

Not many South Dakota voters like the idea of anyone messing with their Medicare or Social Security. Like all Americans who spend their adult lives working hard and paying taxes, Medicare and Social Security are two resources many depend upon once they celebrate their 65th birthday.

Noem would have had a difficult time defending herself.

But, we need a Governor who will DEFEND US! Especially today, when those who run our state’s number one industry are struggling.

We need someone who will SHOW UP and REPRESENT.

Join & Make Your Voice Be Heard … AND Enter a Drawing for $500

Posted on: September 25th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

SDFU members, Nathan and Samantha Miller farm near Houghton, S.D. Their voice was heard in D.C. during the SDFU Fly-In. Make your voice heard, join Farmers Union today!

Farming, ranching and operating rural businesses is labor-intensive, time-consuming work. So, even though times are tough, we understand that its difficult for you to find the time to let your voice be heard.

That’s one of many reasons South Dakota Farmers Union exists – to give YOU a voice. Now, sometimes we need help, and ask our members to share their stories – like during our recent D.C. Fly-In or in Pierre during our Legislative Day. But, most of the time, our President, Doug Sombke (who is also a South Dakota farmer) and lobbyist, Mitch Richter, do the leg-work for you.

And, because numbers matter, as one of the largest farm and ranch organizations in South Dakota and the nation, policy makers listen.

Is your voice heard? Have you been putting off membership renewal? Or, maybe you have yet to join?

Wait no more. South Dakota Farmers Union wants you to begin enjoying the benefits of membership today.

So much in fact, that we are running a special. Join today, and you receive 2018 AND 2019 membership for the price of 1 YEAR … just $50. And, like all good sales pitches… there’s more. Get a friend to join and your name will be entered into a drawing for a $500!

Joining is simple. You can click here. If you have any questions, just pick up the phone and call our friendly Membership Specialist, Pam Evenson (who also happens to be a South Dakota farmer) 605-352-6761 Ext. 116.

Still not ready to join? That’s OK. We’re patient. South Dakota Farmers Union has been serving South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers for more than a century. We don’t plan to quit anytime soon.


Share Your Story Today

Posted on: September 19th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

Post by: Doug Sombke, SDFU President & Conde farmer

During the National Farmers Union Fly-In, South Dakota Farmers Union members met with congressional leaders and staff from across the nation. Here SDFU members meet with a congressional aide from Florida to explain how the current trade war is impacting South Dakota’s family farmers.

Just this morning a local banker stopped by to visit about the impact tariffs, on top of the already low markets, are having on his clients.

What he shared with me, lines up with the impacts on our family’s farm as well as what I have been hearing from other South Dakota farmers and ranchers.

I asked him to share his story with our leaders in Washington, DC. and, spread the word, asking other bankers to step up and request that the money coming from these tariffs go to ag relief.

Those dollars should not go to the general fund. They need to go to farmers and rural communities that are being devastated by a choice that wasn’t theirs. Today, whether you’re a farmer who votes Republican, Democrat or any other party, times are tough.

I take the role I’ve been elected to seriously. It is one of service to South Dakota family farmers and ranchers, who happen to represent both political parties. As a grassroots organization, politics does not drive our policy, our members do. Regardless of which party is in office, I believe it is my duty to speak up when something has a negative impact on our members.

As I see it, the situation we are in is worse than any hurricane. Hurricanes are natural disasters. This is a disaster that was chosen by a President with no plan B.

This was alluded to during our recent visit with Senator Thune’s aides. They basically admitted the President started the trade war with no thought to the degree of which it would impact farmers.

The results have far reaching impacts. The tariffs impact not only farmers, but bankers, implement dealers and Main Street businesses. The current situation reinforces the fact that when you grow something from the earth, everyone is touched by it.

Sharing our stories in DC during the NFU Fly-In is always important – but, this year, it was huge.

As we visited with Thune’s team, I was surprised to hear that as they traveled the state this summer, attending county fairs and the South Dakota State Fair, they said they had not heard of the challenges from farmers and ranchers.

I didn’t ask it at the time, but the question I now have is, where did they spend their time and who did they visit with during these fairs? Because, I spent time at the fairs in the hog, sheep and beef barns, where I heard plenty of stories of challenging times.

I am disappointed in how Representative Kristi Noem handled the recent Presidential visit. Instead of taking advantage of this visit by President Trump to South Dakota to create an opportunity to show him how dire things actually are in agriculture, she simply stood by, while donors spent $5000 to have their photo taken with the President.

Who knows, if she had done her part, maybe introduced him to one or two farmers who are struggling, maybe his response would not have been so cold when he was asked by the KELO reporter what he wants to say to family farmers who may lose their farms this season.

“Well, they would’ve lost them anyway because they were being hurt so badly by the trade barriers. We will tell you they are going to be in a very good position soon.”

Supporting family farmers and ranchers is what Noem ran on – and continues to run on. It doesn’t matter what her party is, she represents all South Dakota farmers and ranchers.

Just like SDFU membership represents both political parties, she should too.

YOUR stories make a difference

During the Fly-In, I was interviewed by KWAT. During the interview the reporter said, “I’m sure its great that you are out there so that individuals who used to be on farms or have families still working on farms, get to hear from people like you.” I said, “No, it’s even more important that we speak to people who have never been on a farm or never visited a rural community understand that we are people too and how important we are to this country.”

Due to the fact that we don’t have a farm bill in place, and, we are in such a bad spot in ag today (the nicest way to put it) – again I’m going to say, we need a special package for agriculture relief.

We need to ask that money from tariffs goes to the American farmer and rancher. We need relief beyond the package the President put together.

When we met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, he said there would be no more aid.

That answer is unacceptable.

I am currently in conversations with National Farmers Union, asking that they request a new, separate aid package.

Make your voice heard

In times like these, it is important that we have a voice. Farmers Union gives us a voice. And, I call on all of you to share your story with our South Dakota congressional representatives. We need to share our stories and let them know they have our support to make a difference for South Dakota agriculture.

Encourage your banker, neighbors and friends to share their story with our congressional leaders as well.

Here’s how to reach them:

Senator John Thune
Phone: (202) 224-2321


Senator Mike Rounds
Phone: (202) 224-5842


Representative Kristi Noem

Phone: (202) 225-2801


South Dakota Farmers Union Recognizes Farm Safety Year-Round

Posted on: September 17th, 2018 by Christina Dexter No Comments

In recognition of National Farm Safety & Health Week South Dakota Farmers Union Farm Safety trailer will be making stops at area schools to provide hands-on farm safety education.

“Agriculture remains one of the deadliest U.S. occupations, with fatality rates higher than mining and construction. This is the reason farm safety education is a strong focus of our organization,” explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “The hands-on nature of this trailer will enhance this mission and allow us to provide farm safety education to youth year-round.”

Tracy Chase agrees. Chase teaches science and co-teaches agriculture education at McCook Central High School. “When learning is hands-on, it engages students’ thought processes so they understand what they are learning,” explains Chase.

Chase says farm safety is a very real concern. “A farm safety accident had a large impact on our community this last year when a senior rolled his ATV and sustained a severe concussion that kept him from playing sports. Accidents touch close to home. Everyone needs reminders – youth and adults.”

Complete with an ATV simulator, grain bin safety, PTO safety and more, the trailer was designed by the SDFU team based on research and creatively addressing common safety concerns. It took more than a year to complete.

“Preventing accidents through fun and interaction is the No. 1 goal of the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer,” explains Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator. “This week and throughout the entire year, we are eager to partner with schools, 4-H clubs and FFA chapters and other organizations to bring our safety trailer to rural communities so South Dakota youth receive farm safety education that we hope prevents accidents and worse.”

Year-round the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer is on the road educating youth, to bring the trailer to your community, contact Forman at 605-350-3421 or