S.D. Farmers Union is Deeply Disappointed by USDA Decision to Terminate Farmer Fair Practices Rules

October 17, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it would be terminating the Farmer Fair Practices Rule on Competitive Injury, a rule that would have provided the most basic of protections to American family farmers and ranchers as they endure increasingly concentrated markets and unfair treatment from multinational meatpackers.

 South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President Doug Sombke issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

 "SDFU is deeply disappointed in today's decision by the USDA and realizes the negative impact it will have on rural Americans. Withdrawing the rule shows little respect for family farmers and ranchers and a big win for multinational packers. This President and Administration has yet again let down the rural Americans who gave their support to get him into office to begin with. Leaving them to wonder when rural Americans will see a return on support from their own president."

 "Clarifications in the Packers and Stockyards Act is a high priority for SDFU. Our efforts in addressing this impactful issue for our industry will not waiver. SDFU will encourage Congress and the Administration to clarify the loopholes left as a result of the withdrawal."  

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Last Modified: 10/17/2017 2:58:36 pm MDT

Healthcare is a Real Rural Issue

October 17, 2017

By Lura Roti for SDFU

 Until recently, when Shelly and George Kenzy paid their monthly bills, they wrote a check for $2,600 to their health insurance provider. A large expense for the farm family of five who raise cattle and forage crops near Gregory.

 "Health insurance is a big deal for our family because our daughter, Brooklynn, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 10-months-old," explains Shelly, noting that without insurance, the insulin which literally keeps the otherwise healthy and athletic 13-year-old alive, would cost $600 out-of-pocket each month - not to mention the two monitors she wears at all times costing about $11,500 and then there are testing supplies and three yearly visits to the endocrinologist.

 The out-of-pocket insurance expense dropped to just a little over $400 a month when the family signed up for group insurance thanks to Shelly's position at the local public school.

 "This insurance is a huge deal. It means we know we can keep Brooklynn using the latest technology and don't have to worry about using older ways to treat diabetes," Shelly explains. "This gives her a healthier future because her numbers are steady. We don't have to worry as much about future health problems."

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Last Modified: 10/17/2017 2:57:33 pm MDT

A Unique Take on How the Cooperative Business Model Serves Today's Needs

October 2, 2017

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

 Finding South Dakota authors isn't an easy task. Creative writer and high school English teacher Jason Kurtz should know, he spent a few years looking.

 "I was doing research and it turned up an old Rapid City Journal article that listed nine South Dakota authors - eight featured in the article were dead," explains Kurtz, who made it his mission to unite regional writers and other artists.

 He launched a non-profit South Dakota Writes in 2016 and through its Facebook page Kurtz began connecting with more than 450 South Dakota authors - 150 of whom have published books.

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Last Modified: 10/02/2017 9:14:11 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Hanson Farm Family of Sisseton

October 2, 2017

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

 When it comes to his farm, it doesn't take much to make Gary Hanson smile.

 "I just enjoy going out and putting in fence. The posts are straight, the wires are tight - it gives me joy," explains the fourth-generation Sisseton farmer. "I tell people that when I was a college student, farming was my distraction. I loved it and knew that I could return to the farm, so that's what I did."

 At 67, Hanson's passion for farming has not dwindled, but his focus has expanded beyond his crops and cattle.

 Today, his son, Cody, 42, is making most of the decisions Gary and his brother, Paul, used to make.

 "Like my dad, I liked tractors and cattle - I played farmer when I was growing up - I enjoy what I do," explains Cody, who lives on the farm, next door to his mom and dad, with his wife, Shawn, and their four school-age children, Reece, 16; Parker, 14; Kennedy, 10; and Scarlett, 6.

Gary says handing over the reins to Cody has given him more time to enjoy farm tasks, time spent outdoors and allowed him to become more engaged in his other passion - serving South Dakota's farmers and ranchers.

 Over the last two decades, Gary has traded in some on-farm responsibilities for off-farm agriculture advocacy.

To read more and view a photo gallery click here

To listen to a recorded interview with the Hansons, click here

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Last Modified: 10/02/2017 12:42:17 pm MDT

National Farmers Union President Joins Advisory Board of New Energy America

September 20, 2017

HURON, S.D. - In a move to further Farmers Union's commitment to promoting American grown, renewable energy sources, today, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson joined the advisory board of New Energy America, a new organization created to promote clean energy jobs in rural America.

 Johnson and National Farmers Union will support New Energy America's engagement with communities and lawmakers in rural America to demonstrate how policies that support the deployment of clean energy create jobs in rural America. While the fossil fuel industry enjoys support from the politicians elected in these states, the data is clear that policies that support reducing emissions are creating good jobs in rural America.

 "Farmers Union members have long been staunch supporters of clean, renewable energy, especially when that energy development puts folks to work on the farm and in rural communities," said Johnson. "I'm eager to work with my colleagues at New Energy America to ensure the success of the America renewable energy sector for the benefit of American family farmers, ranchers, and their rural communities."

 As part of its launch today, New Energy America released the first Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report, which contains a detailed analysis of clean energy jobs in each of the 50 states. The report shows that clean energy jobs outpace fossil energy jobs in 41 states. 

"Clean energy is putting more people to work," said Mike Carr, Executive Director of New Energy America. "The electricians installing solar panels, the welders building wind turbines, and the truck drivers delivering biofuels all benefit from policies that promote clean energy, and we're here to tell their stories."

 After recent unveiling of an initiative to expand ethanol and biofuels markets by NFU and South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU), Doug Sombke, SDFU President, sees Johnson's addition to New Energy America's board as a step in the right direction for the future of ethanol.

 "This is an excellent opportunity for Farmers Union to highlight our efforts and commitment to E30 on an additional platform," says Sombke. "Johnson's invitation to join New Energy America's board shows the respect Farmers Union has when it comes to what's happening in the world with renewable fuels."

 The 2017 Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report, and more information about New Energy America can be found at   

To view the Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report, visit this link.

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Last Modified: 09/20/2017 1:46:50 pm MDT

South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers Share Their Plight in D.C.

September 12, 2017

This week, 26 South Dakota farmers and ranchers left their fields and cattle in trusted hands and traveled to D.C. to visit with Congressional leaders and their staff about the challenges and opportunities they face as they work to feed our nation.

They are among more than 200 farmers and ranchers from across the nation who met in D.C. for the annual National Farmers Union Fly-In.

 "Times are tough. Not only is there a drought, but crop and cattle prices are so low that many South Dakota farmers and ranchers need take off-farm jobs so they can feed their own families - while they work hard day in and day out to feed the nation and the world," explained Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President.

 Today, the South Dakota group met with United States Department of Agriculture Officials. Tomorrow and Wednesday they will have sit-down meetings with more than 30 members of Congressional Leadership and their staff to share their personal stories.

"It's important to take the time to tell law makers how we feel about decisions they are making because they impact our lives," explained Scott Kolousek, fifth-generation cattle producer from Wessington Springs.

 These face-to-face meetings make a difference.

"When staffers get to sit down with those of us who plant the crops and feed the cattle, they actually listen when we say we need their support," Sombke said. "It's tough to ignore someone when you hear the passion in their voice - and yes, this year there have been a few tears - when we talk about the challenges we work through to as we work to provide a safe and abundant food supply."

 To learn more about the D.C. Fly-In, visit You can also follow the South Dakota delegation on Facebook, search South Dakota Farmers Union.


South Dakotans attending the National Farmers Union D.C. Fly-In include; Doug Sombke, SDFU President, Conde; Wayne Soren, Lake Preston, SDFU Vice President; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Christina Dexter, SDFU Communications Specialist, Huron; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Joe and Cynthia Painter, Buffalo; Jason and Corliss Lee, Cresbard; Jessica and Andrew Mefferd, Mitchell; George, Michelle, Tyler, Nicholas and Brooklynn Kenzy,Gregory; Amber, Scott and Isaac Kolousek, Wessington Springs; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Kayla Foreman, SDFU Controller, Miller; Kathy and Bill Chase, Wolsey; Craig Blindert, Salem; Jack Eble, Sioux Falls and Adam Huntimer, Sioux Falls

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Last Modified: 09/12/2017 9:21:38 am MDT

Panelists Discuss the Future of Ethanol During State Fair Event

September 5, 2017

South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) hosted an E-30 panel discussion today at the State Fair to talk about the economic and environmental benefits ethanol brings to South Dakota and its agriculture producers.

"Producing higher levels of ethanol does not only benefit farmers but consumers as well," explains Marc Rauch, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of The Auto Channel.

 "The more ethanol we use the cleaner the air is and the better our engines run. That's good for everyone. My own tests and tests conducted by others, show that E30 ethanol-gasoline blends produce the best MPG (mile per gallon) results in most current gasoline-optimized vehicle engines, including E85 flex fuel vehicles. This means that consumers save money and get better mileage. "

 Rauch discussed the potential benefits higher levels of American production of ethanol would bring to the national economy.

 "I'd rather give my fuel money to American farmers than to foreign dictators, so we can keep more money in the country," said Rauch. "By using E30 nationally we could save hundreds of billions of dollars that leave the country to be spent on importing foreign fuel.

 If we can avoid sending the $1 billion a day ($360 billion per year) out of the country and instead, use those dollars here to pay salaries and buy domestically produced goods, those dollars become stimulus for the economy without having to print additional dollars and devalue those already in circulation. Then, if those dollars are spent on American workers and American products, we actually wind up recycling the dollars and multiplying its stimulus effect several fold. It could be possible to recycle the $360 billion three, four, five, six times, giving us a trillion dollar-plus stimulus every year for every year that we can avoid importing petroleum oil."

 Rauch is among three panelists who discussed the opportunities and benefits associated with fuels containing higher blends of ethanol. Other panelists include: Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President  and Dale Christensen, Board member of Glacial Lakes Energy.

 "Having this panel at the State Fair will encourage people to use more ethanol and in return better our rural economies," says Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President. "Using more ethanol would enhance the bottom line for family farms."

 For more than three decades, S.D. Farmers Union members have shown their support for the ethanol industry. This support is the motivation behind SDFU's decision, alongside National Farmers Union and other state organizations, to unveil a recent initiative to advance federal policies that support U.S. renewable energy sources including ethanol.

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Last Modified: 09/05/2017 1:07:45 pm MDT

2017 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees Recognized Today During South Dakota State Fair

September 5, 2017

Each year, during the State Fair, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals for their selfless contributions to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride Award.  Today, five individuals from rural communities across South Dakota were recognized. The honorees include: Donna Duffy, Winner; Bob Satter, Irene; Lorelee Nelson, Carthage; Lacey Rippentrop, Tea and Jeff Kreun, Black Hawk.

As an organization which supports South Dakota farmers and ranchers, Farmers Union understands the integral connection between those who work in South Dakota's number one industry and their rural communities.

 "One cannot survive without the other," says Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. "Without thriving communities, it's difficult to encourage young people to return to their family's farm or ranch. Rural communities are key to the future of South Dakota's agriculture

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Last Modified: 09/05/2017 1:06:29 pm MDT

Farmers Feed Nearly 1000 Fairgoers for Only 30 cents During Farmers Union Farmers Share Lunch

September 5, 2017

In an effort to educate consumers, family farmers and ranchers treated fairgoers to a 30 cent lunch in the South Dakota Farmers Union tent today at the South Dakota State Fair.

"There is a large gap between prices charged in grocery stores and the actual profits received by farmers and ranchers who raise the ingredients," explains Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union. "We receive pennies on the dollar - even in year like this when markets are down to the point that many farmers and ranchers are actually paying to raise crops and cattle."

 The annual Farmers Share Lunch, sponsored by S.D. Farmers Union at the State Fair is the grassroots organization's attempt to convey this message.

 "State Fair provides us with the opportunity to share our story and explain the investment we make in raising safe and healthy food while at the same time, taking care of our natural resources," says Terry Sestak, District 1 Farmers Union board member and fourth-generation Tabor farmer. "Yes, farming and ranching is a business, we need to make a profit in order to continue feeding the world, however it is also a way of life we value."

 Today, Sestak and several other family farmers and ranchers were able to share this message with consumers as they engaged fairgoers who enjoyed a lunch that would typically cost $10, if it were purchased at a café.

 South Dakota Farmers Union charged only 30 cents - the amount South Dakota farmers and ranchers would receive for the ingredients. The lunch is a pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, potato chips and milk.

 "It's good to have a reminder like this because everyone thinks farmers make all this money," says fairgoer, Sheri Severson, who makes the trek from Aberdeen to Huron to spend a day with her family at the state fair each year. "I'm thankful to our farmers for providing our food for us - I like knowing where my food comes from."

 Fairgoers could donate $1 if they chose. All money collected today will be donated to support S.D. Farmers Union educational programming.

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Last Modified: 09/05/2017 11:16:28 am MDT

Panelists Discuss the Upcoming Farm Bill During Rural Issues Discussion at the State Fair

September 5, 2017

South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) gave rural community members the opportunity to join the conversation on the upcoming Farm Bill during a panel discussion hosted today at the State Fair.

As the 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire in September 2018, farmers and ranchers of South Dakota are left to wonder how the new legislation will impact their own livelihood, public health and local economies. Included in the three-person panel discussing these concerns were S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke, National Farmers Union Government Relations Representative Matt Perdue and S.D. Farmers Union Vice President, Wayne Soren.

  "As the biggest agriculture fair in South Dakota, the State Fair is a great place to host this discussion because it brings people together from all over the state," Doug Sombke, SDFU President explained. "SDFU knows how much the new Farm Bill will impact the farmers and ranchers we represent. To be a better voice for them, we have to hear their concerns and the issues facing their operations."

 Sombke expressed the importance of discussions that let individuals voice their experiences, needs and concerns with previous and upcoming Farm Bills.

 "As the Farm Bill is being developed, new issues arise," said Sombke. "This panel is a great opportunity to discuss what was good in the last farm bill and what needs to be better in the next Farm Bill.  People are also given a great opportunity to speak directly to our state representatives." 

 Sombke was joined in discussion by Matt Perdue, National Farmers Union Government Relations Representative.

 "We have to communicate to Congress that the 2018 Farm Bill should be written to meet the needs of farmers, ranchers and consumers and not based on arbitrary budget cuts," Perdue said.

 Rural Issues Discussion

Prior to the 2017 State Fair, S.D. Farmers Union hosted several Rural Issues Discussions with family farmers and ranchers in rural communities across the state. For more information on the upcoming events and Farm Bill, visit

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Last Modified: 09/05/2017 11:15:21 am MDT