Trade with Cuba Good News for South Dakota Purebred Livestock Producers

December 18, 2014

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, says trade with Cuba provides new opportunities to South Dakota’s purebred livestock producers.

“Cuban livestock producers will be eager to access the quality genetics South Dakota cattle, sheep and hog seedstock producers have to sell,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

Sombke stands with National Farmers Union (NFU) President, Roger Johnson, in applauding the Obama administration on the important steps announced Dec. 17, 2014, to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

“NFU has worked hard over the last five years to push for a normalization of relations with Cuba,” said Johnson. “Acknowledging that Cuba is one of our closest neighbors and a potentially valuable trading partner, and allowing the relationships between the two nations and its citizens to renew and blossom is good for both nations.”

The administration’s announcement noted that decades of isolation have failed to accomplish the U.S. goals of promoting a democratic and prosperous Cuba. Under the agreement announced today, the U.S. Commerce Department will ease the financial regulations on U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba as part of a normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations.

“The embargo against Cuba had been going on longer than 40 years with little to show for it,” Sombke said. “It’s time to make changes that will not only help the people of Cuba, but will also open new markets for family farmers here in South Dakota and across the United States, who are always interested in new trade opportunities.”

Over the last five years, NFU has sent at least 20 letters addressing normalized travel and trade with Cuba. “The Cuban embargo has made no sense for a long time,” said Johnson.

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Last Modified: 12/18/2014 9:47:19 am MST

Farmers Union Hosts 2015 Young Producers Event in Deadwood Jan. 30-31

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - There is no end to the busy season for Jeff and Rachel Kippley. The couple farms near Aberdeen, managing a cow/calf herd and raising corn and soybeans with Jeff's dad, John; they also own and operate an H&R Block franchise. In addition, the couple has four young children. "Things never really slow down for us," Rachel says.

However, January 30-31, they will leave their kids and farm in the capable hands of grandparents and spend two days focusing on personal growth, ways to improve their farm management and networking with other young, South Dakota agriculture producers during the Farmers Union Young Producers Event held at The Lodge in Deadwood. The event is free to members of South Dakota Farmers Union. Non-members who join Farmers Union before the event are eligible.

"There aren't many venues where you have the opportunity to talk with other young producers and experts in personal development and today's agriculture. We attended the event last year and were very impressed," says Rachel of the two-day event.

A few of the speakers invited to attend the event include: South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture, Lucas Lentsch; a discussion on drone technology in agriculture by South Dakota State University; South Dakota State Veterinarian, Dustin Oedekoven; Motivational Speaker, Malcom Chapman; State Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke; and DuWayne Bosse, co-owner of Bolt Marketing, LLC.

"Providing information and educational opportunities for today's generation of agriculture producers is a focus of Farmers Union," explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. "Young producers are the future of South Dakota's agriculture industry. Young Producer Events are one way South Dakota Farmers Union works to support them."

Even though it's not easy to take time away from the farm, Rachel says the information and networking she and Jeff gained was worth it. "A lot of being successful in today's market is being educated on what is going on in the marketplace. It's not easy to keep up with all aspects of the ag sector, so it's nice to come to one event and feel like you've caught up."

For more information on this event, contact Hofhenke at or 605-352-6761 ext: 114.

2015 S.D. Farmers Union Young Producers Event Agenda
(Speakers are subject to change)

When: January 30 - 31, 2015
Where: The Lodge at Deadwood, Deadwood, S.D. (100 Pine Crest Lane, Deadwood, SD 57732)

Friday Jan. 30, 2015
Mountain Time Zone
3 p.m. - Check-in/Registration
5 p.m. - Social hour
6 p.m. - Supper with S.D. Secretary of Agriculture, Lucas Lentsch
7 p.m. - Precision Ag: Utilizing Drones, Aaron Franzen, Assistant Professor in Ag & Bio Systems Engineering at South Dakota State University.
8 p.m. - Downtown Deadwood Scavenger Hunt

Saturday Jan. 31, 2015
9 a.m. - Breakfast with Dustin Oedekoven, South Dakota State Veterinarian
10 a.m. - Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President - Welcome
10:30 a.m. - Ice breaker
10:50 a.m. - DuWayne Bosse, co-owner of Bolt Marketing, LLC
Noon - Lunch
1:15 p.m. - Malcom Chapman, founder of the Chapman Group
2:15 p.m. - New Farm Bill Discussion
3:15 p.m. - Break
3:30 p.m. - Jeff and Rachel Kippley - Farm Tax info for 2015
5 p.m.- Break
6 p.m. - Supper

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:25:31 pm MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Donates to Feeding South Dakota

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - During the 2014 South Dakota Farmers Union Convention, those who dedicate their lives to food production donated $5,000 to Feeding South Dakota to help feed struggling families.

"To know that we have the support of South Dakota farmers and ranchers is humbling," said Matt Gassen, Executive Director of Feeding South Dakota. "These are the men and women who work the land and raise the livestock to help us feed struggling South Dakotans - and ultimately the world."

Each year, Feeding South Dakota provides meals to more than 190,000 South Dakotans. The $5,000 donation will help supply food to the more than 350 nonprofit organizations across the state that Feeding South Dakota provides food to each year. "We are a private, nonprofit who distributes donated food to both individuals and nonprofit charitable organizations as part of the Feeding America network," explained Gassen.

Each year during their state convention, South Dakota Farmers Union selects a nonprofit within the state to contribute to. In light of the 2014 convention theme, Family Farmers Feeding the World, Doug Sombke said Feeding South Dakota was a natural fit.

"Helping neighbors in need is something all farmers and ranchers can relate to - in rural America we depend upon our neighbors in good times and in bad," Sombke said. "Through this donation, we as farmers, ranchers and South Dakota Farmers Union members are helping our neighbors who may be struggling to feed their families."

Along with donations of non-perishable food items, Feeding South Dakota utilizes dollar donations to cover the transportation costs of donated food items they receive from large food manufacturers through the Feeding America network. "Feeding America has created partnerships with virtually all food manufacturers. When there is a mistake in labeling or if there are overruns in production, these manufacturers cannot sell the food, so they donate it to Feeding America. We just have to cover the transportation costs," he explained.

To learn how you can give non-perishable food items or dollars to Feeding South Dakota, visit

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:24:32 pm MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Recognizes Rural Youth with the Torchbearer Award

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - Seventeen rural youth were recognized with the Torchbearer honor during the 2014 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention.

This is the highest honor South Dakota Farmers Union awards youth membership. The Torchbearer award recognizes a youth's commitment to their community, their state, and the organization, as well as the leadership skills they have developed through Farmers Union Youth Programming, explains Bonnie Geyer, SDFU Education Director.

"This is an honor they all strive for and work toward. To achieve Torchbearer status signifies their dedication to the Farmers Union organization and its youth programming," she says. "For me and those involved in the education programming, it's been amazing to watch them grow as individuals as they develop confidence, leadership skills and become citizens we can all be proud of. I'm just as proud as their parents!"

On their journey to receive the Torchbearer, honor students completed volunteer projects in their community, assisted at Farmers Union events and attended Farmers Union Leadership camp, all while gaining self-confidence, leadership skills and a strong understanding of how the cooperative system works.

"These youth are our future. South Dakota Farmers Union is proud of who they have become," said Doug Sombke, SDFU President.

Due to the timing of the State Convention, 2013 and 2014 Torchbearers were recognized during this year's convention candle lighting ceremony.

Meet the Torchbearers
Tyler Novak is the son of Alvin and Rhonda Novak. He is from Yankton and plans to attend college and major in Education.

Jackie Dethlefsen is the daughter of Clyde and Cheryl Dethlefsen. She is from Stickney and currently attends the University of Sioux Falls where she is studying Psychology with plans to continue on to graduate school for Occupational Therapy.

Dasia Tolsma is the daughter of Shannon and Paula Tolsma. She is from Stickney and currently attends Mitchell Technical Institute.

Jonathan Linke is the son of Henry and Paula Linke. He is from Woonsocket and plans to attend South Dakota State University considering a major of Agriculture Journalism.

Alyson Hauck is the daughter of Jason and Bobbi Hauck. She lives in De Smet and currently attends South Dakota State University majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences Education.

Dayton Trujillo is the son of Steve Trujillo and Kathy McAdaragh. He lives in De Smet. He attends South Dakota State University and wants to become a clinical or industrial psychologist.

Alexandra Farber is the daughter of Tom and Lori Farber. She lives in Britton. She plans to attend South Dakota State University Honors College to major in Marketing and Theatre, with a minor in English.

Jason Hanson is the son of Lorrie Hanson. He is from Britton and plans to attend North Dakota State University.

Chelsie Beyl is the daughter of Mary Beyl. She lives in Rosholt and is majoring in Communication with a minor in Business Entrepreneurship at Minnesota State University - Moorhead. Tyana Gottsleben is the daughter of Bill and Jayne Gottsleben. She lives in Philip and is undecided about her future plans.

Ashton Reedy is the daughter of Matt and Micky Reedy. She lives in Philip and plans to attend the University of South Dakota for Occupational Therapy.

Bailly Enright is the daughter of Travis and Jone Enright. She grew up near Union Center and is currently attending Cosmetology School and wants to someday own her own salon.

Brooke Enright is the daughter of Travis and Jone Enright. She grew up near Union Center and is currently majoring in Sociology at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

Keely Thompson is the daughter of Dana and Roxona Thompson. She grew up near New Underwood and currently attends South Dakota State University. After graduation, she would like to work on building her own bovine artificial insemination company.

Kiana Brockel is the daughter of Kelvin and Jean Brockel. She lives near Shadehill and is planning to attend college but undecided on her major.

Alexandra Waldner is the daughter of Roger and Amy Waldner. She grew up in Huron and plans to attend Southwest Minnesota State University with a major in Culinary Arts.

Chris Nemec is the son of Victor and Diane Nemec. He lives near Holabird and is currently attending the University of South Dakota, pursuing a degree in Business Management.

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union youth programming, contact Geyer at or 605-352-6761 ext. 125.

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:23:22 pm MST

Denise Mushitz Receives the 2014 South Dakota Farmers Union Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - During the 2014 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention Nov. 20-21 in Aberdeen, Denise Mushitz was recognized for her years of dedicated service to South Dakota Farmers Union Youth Programming with the Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award.

"Denise has invested her time and gone above and beyond to serve South Dakota's rural youth for many years," says Bonnie Geyer, SDFU Education Director. "This is the highest honor we can bestow in the Farmers Union Education Programming, and like those who have received it before her, Denise exemplifies all this award represents."

Established in 2004, the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation instituted the Minnie Lovinger award in recognition of the founder of all Farmers Union Education programs.
Minnie Lovinger passed away 70 years ago, but not before she laid the foundation for all subsequent Farmers Union education efforts. As historian Lyn Oyos wrote in his history of South Dakota Farmers Union, Minnie Lovinger "snatched the thorny chance and broke the trail that others followed. Her soul has never left them in their sowing and reaping."

This award is given to individuals who have made great contributions to the success and the longevity of the South Dakota Farmers Union youth program.

"I am in awe of what Minnie accomplished. It's a strong tribute to her legacy that her vision lives on," expressed Mushitz, who was nominated by a selection committee of Farmers Union Education Directors.

A middle-school teacher at Platte-Geddes School, Mushitz understands the value of adult involvement in the lives of young people. "Anytime a young person can have an adult advocate whom they can connect with, it is beneficial for them."

Mushitz has been involved in Farmers Union since childhood. She participated in Farmers Union Youth Programming and has enjoyed giving back to the program. "I am blessed because I have had the opportunity to watch young people mature and grow through our program. It is fun to see them grow into amazing adults and know that I had some part in their development," Mushitz said.

Each year about 3,000 South Dakota youth participate in Farmers Union Youth Education Programming which includes day camps, district and state leadership camps and other leadership development programming.

To learn more, contact Geyer at or 605-352-6761, ext: 125.

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:21:09 pm MST

Jackie Dethlefsen from Stickney and Tyana Gottlsleben from Philip Elected to South Dakota Farmers Union 2015 Senior Advisory Council

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - Each year two Torchbearers are selected by South Dakota Farmers Union District Education Directors to serve on the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Senior Advisory Council. This year, Jackie Dethlefsen, Stickney, and Tyana Gottlsleben, Philip, were selected.

In this position, Dethlefsen and Gottlseben advise the Junior Advisory Council, help with planning Farmers Union Youth Programming and serve as youth representatives to the Education Council. They attend Education Council meetings, assist with State Convention and help promote educational programs.

"Their insight and Farmers Union experience is valuable to the continued evolution and development of Farmers Union youth programming," says Bonnie Geyer, SDFU Education Director.

More about Dethlefsen & Gottlsleben
Jackie Dethlefsen is the daughter of Clyde and Cheryl Dethlefsen. She currently attends the University of Sioux Falls where she is studying Psychology with plans to continue on to graduate school for Occupational Therapy.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity serving on the Senior Advisory Council gives me to return to camp," she said of the honor. "Camp is such a great experience and I look forward to encouraging campers as they step out of their shells and develop leadership skills through camp programming."

Tyana Gottslebenis the daughter of Bill and Jayne Gottsleben and is a senior at Philip High School. "I am looking forward to being involved in planning leadership camp this summer. What a great event to be involved in this summer!" Gottsleben said when asked why she is excited to be on the Senior Advisory Council.

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union education programming, visit

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:20:16 pm MST

KELO Newstalk's Bill Zortman Recognized with S.D. Farmers Union Farm & Ranch News Award for Outstanding Reporting

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - Broadcast news consultant/anchor, Bill Zortman, was recognized for his diligent coverage of farm and ranch news with the South Dakota Farmers Union Award for Outstanding Reporting during the 99th State Convention held Nov. 20-21, 2014 in Aberdeen.

"Until now, I've done everything but farm news," said Zortman, who grew up on a farm in Iowa. "It's our goal to talk to consumers and help them understand what we in agriculture do."

In 2013, Zortman, along with KELO, launched It's Your Agri-Business news hour which runs twice weekly on Monday and Wednesday. Through this program, Zortman features farmers, ranchers and experts throughout the agriculture industry to keep South Dakota's farming, ranching and non-farming public informed on what's happening in the state's No. 1 industry.

Several Farmers Union staff and members have been highlighted on Zortman's show, including all the families highlighted in South Dakota Farmers Union monthly Celebrate South Dakota's Farm and Ranch Families feature.

Listeners can catch It's Your Agri-Business show live Mondays and Wednesdays 10 - 11 a.m. on 1320 AM and 107.9 FM or listen to streaming or podcasts at

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:19:08 pm MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Leads the Way in Renovating Beef Checkoff

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - During the 99th South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention, members passed a resolution that could ultimately lead to changing the oversight of beef checkoff funds.

Specifically, the Beef Checkoff Reform Resolution encourages Congress to expedite a vote on the beef checkoff under the 1985 Food Security Act and urges its elimination. In addition, South Dakota Farmers Union supportsa national beef checkoff under the 1996 Commodity Promotion Act.

"South Dakota Farmers Union members believe that those paying the checkoff tax need to be better represented," explained Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "This would create a more hands-on approach and allow for the allocation of checkoff dollars to be determined by a producer-elected board. This is how other commodity checkoff funds are managed, and it's time for beef checkoff funds to be managed in the same way."

A fourth-generation crop and livestock farmer from Conde, Sombke, like all cattle producers, is familiar with the $1 checkoff tax which is paid each time a bovine is sold. He added that the management of beef checkoff funds is a national issue recognized by Sec. of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

"Secretary Vilsack is working to resolve this issue and has asked for agriculture producers and the organizations that represent them to introduce solutions," Sombke said.

Now that the Beef Checkoff Reform Resolution passed at the state level, Sombke and the South Dakota delegates will encourage its passage during the National Farmers Union Convention held in Wichita, Kan., March 14-17, 2015.

"This is where policy change begins. We are a grassroots agricultural organization, policy is drafted at the state level by the farmers and ranchers who have skin in the game," explained Matt Sibley, S.D. Farmers Union Legislative Specialist, who helped draft the resolution.

If you have questions on this resolution, contact Sibley at 605-350-8410, ext: 122 or To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union visit

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:17:51 pm MST

Jerry Petik & John Sumption Recognized with Farmers Union's Highest Honor: Meritorious Award

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - Respect and integrity are the two words that come to mind when Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President, thinks of this year's Meritorious Service Award honorees, Jerry Petik of Meadow and John Sumption of Frederick.

"These men are two of the most respected men in our organization who I've had the honor of serving with," Sombke said. "Both men are selfless and put the needs of South Dakota family farms and rural communities ahead of their own."

Petik and Sumption were recognized with the Meritorious Service Award during the 2014 S.D. State Farmers Union Convention held in Aberdeen Nov. 20-21, 2014.

To learn more about the 2014 honorees, read on.

Jerry Petik, Corson County
Community means everything to Jerry Petik. The third-generation Meadow farmer says it's where he developed his love for farming and ranching, grew in his faith and together with his wife, Carolyn, raised their family.

Within this community, Jerry also learned what it means to give back. "Giving back isn't a cafeteria thing where you go down the line and pick out what you want. When it comes to giving back, you need to put more in than you get back," he says.

Jerry's roots in his community go back to his great-grandfather who immigrated to America from Czechoslovakia and homesteaded the ground where his brother and farm partner, Jim, currently lives with his wife, Kim. The brothers operate a commercial cow/calf operation, raise alfalfa and small grains, as well as corn, wheat and sunflowers.

Actively involved in the Meadow community, Jerry helped organize the local fire department and served as its first fire chief; he is an active member of Hope Presbyterian church, serving his church in many capacities on the local, state and national level; served on the board and is an incorporating member of the Lemmon Area Medical Assn.; and Jerry has been actively involved in 4-H as a member, leader and chair of Corson County 4-H Leaders Assn.

Always intending to return home to farm and ranch, Jerry began farming full-time in 1972 with a degree from South Dakota State University in Agriculture Business. About that time, he says it became obvious to him that there were outside forces at work against agriculture. "I realized that working harder wasn't necessarily all there was to being successful as an agriculture producer - you have to work smarter and be part of something bigger to be protected from those forces."

This realization led him to become actively involved in Farmers Union. "Farmers Union's philosophy toward the people and industry are compatible with mine," says Jerry who served on the Farmers Union board for 23 years.

It took a local need to pull him from the board. He now serves on the board of directors of the Grand River Co-op Grazing Assn. He is currently the President of Corson County Farmers Union.

Jerry has also served South Dakota's agriculture community as a board member for the following organizations: West River Conservancy Sub-District,S.D. Beef Council and the National Beef Board. Jerry ran for the state legislature in 1982 and has been involved in the Hands Across South Dakota relief project.

John Sumption, Brown County
When it comes to creating policy or solving issues, John Sumption says every voice matters. "Every little thought matters because that's where the big ideas come from."

Working together with others to solve the big issues which impact South Dakota's family farmers and rural communities is the reason John became actively involved in Farmers Union. "So much of agriculture is exploited by national concerns. In many cases, those who claim to represent agriculture are simply advocating for their best interest,which is why I was impressed by the fact that farmers and ranchers actually draft the policy Farmers Union gives legislators each session," he says.

John currently serves as a County Counselor. "We rewrite the entire policy each year that our members then vote on, and we give to political leaders each year - this is a big undertaking that comes from a think tank of farmers and ranchers who are working for the future."

There are many reasons which motivate John to invest his time to ensure a solid future for South Dakota's family farmers and their rural communities, but the most important are his five grown sons who farm with him today. "Over my lifetime, I've watched our community shrink and some of the things I enjoy disappear. You can't expect to maintain what is important to you and your family if you're not willing to give of your time," John says. "Another reason I'm involved in Farmers Union is because they invest in rural communities."

Along with serving as a County Counselor and the current Chairman of Brown County Farmers Union, John has served on the state Farmers Union Board of Directors and as Dist. 7 President.

He has also served on his alumni association and local school board, as well as on the board of the local Farmers Union Oil Company. John has actively served in the Frederick Community Club and on the council of St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

Currently, he serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Frederick Farmers Elevator and Chairman of the Dakota Marketing Coalition.

"I believe you have to become involved and work hard if you want to keep the way of life you love alive."

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:16:34 pm MST

Greg Peterson a Kansas Farmer & Agriculture Advocate Speaks during the 2014 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention

December 9, 2014

HURON, S.D. - Greg Peterson, a Kansas farmer and nationally renowned agriculture advocate shared his inspirational message with the more than 150 South Dakota farmers and ranchers who attended the 2014 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention in Aberdeen Nov. 20 and 21, 2014.

Peterson, 23, and his brothers, Nathan, 20 and Kendal, 17 became a household name after the YouTube video they made, "I'm Farming and I grow It," a parody of "I'm Sexy and I Know It," went viral in 2012. To date, the video has had more than 9 million views on YouTube.

Today, the brothers use the fame to advocate for agriculture; and to encourage agriculture producers from across the nation to do the same.

"Every little bit counts. We use the popularity of our videos to share the message of farmers feeding the world. But even simple conversations with people outside of the agriculture industry matters. If you talk to one person and change their opinion toward agriculture based on your personal experience it can make a big difference to the entire community of agriculture," said Peterson, a fifth generation family farmer from Assaria, Kans., and a recent graduate of Kansas State University.

Peterson's message was inspiring, relevant and fresh says Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

"We brought Greg here to show the young producers that Farmers Union isn't your father's organization. We are passionate about the future of South Dakota's family farmers," said Sombke, who farms with his three sons near Conde. "Young farmers are our future."

Peterson was joined by a full line-up of speakers which included Larry Mitchell, Administrator of Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Association; Craig Schaunaman, S.D. State Executive Director of Farm Service Agency; and Robert Carlson, United Nations Ambassador to the International Year of Family Farming.

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union, visit

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Last Modified: 12/09/2014 6:14:18 pm MST