Public Invited to Hear Temple Grandin Speak During 2015 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention in Huron Dec. 9, 2015

November 23, 2015

- Dr. Temple Grandin, the renowned animal handling researcher, livestock facility designer and author, is the keynote for the South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention held Dec. 9 and 10, 2015 in Huron at the Crossroads Convention Center (100 4th St. SW).

 "When Farmers Union brought Temple Grandin to the state in 2014 the response was so amazing, we wanted to bring her back," says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

 Grandin will speak at 1:30 p.m. December 9. The public is invited to attend at no charge.

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Last Modified: 11/23/2015 3:24:04 pm MST

NFU Opposes Proposed Rule to Allow Beef Imports from Namibia, Cites 2015 Outbreak of Highly Contagious FMD

November 19, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports the National Farmers Union (NFU) in urging the administration to oppose a proposed rule that would make Namibia an eligible country to export meat to the United States. Namibia just this year experienced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

  "When you consider the devastation FMD would cause if it were to infect cattle herds in the U.S., it is an unwise risk," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle farmer. "Farmers Union is always on the side of family farmers and ranchers - when you look at the number of South Dakota family farmers and ranchers who raise cattle, an outbreak of FMD in South Dakota would devastate our agriculture economy."

 His comments echo those NFU President Roger Johnson submitted Nov. 17, 2015 to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). "An outbreak would have devastating consequences on our domestic livestock industry. NFU calls upon the administration to defend U.S. farmers and ranchers by opposing imports of live animals and processed or frozen animal products from countries or regions with a history of FMD."

 In 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed to add Namibia to the list of regions that are considered free of FMD with the exception of north of the country's Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF). "Earlier this year Namibia had an outbreak of FMD north of the VCF," said Johnson. "The Namibian government has said repeatedly that it would like to remove the VCF due to the social and economic inequalities it has created and perpetuated. If the government removes the VCF prior to elimination of all contagious animal diseases, such as FMD, then the U.S. could potentially import infected meat from the country."

  Johnson noted that the U.S. has been very fortunate that an outbreak of FMD has not occurred in the states since 1929, but that other countries have not been so lucky.

 "In recent memory, the outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the slaughter and/or burning of nearly 3 million animals," said Johnson. "This outbreak was so severe, it delayed the national elections. The epidemic was costly both to farmers and the economy. The total losses to agriculture and the food chain amounted to over $4 billion. Prior to the 2001 outbreak, the UK had gone 34 years without an outbreak."

  "With an increasingly global agricultural economy, the U.S. should remain vigilant and adequately weigh the risks and benefits when seeking to expand imports," said Johnson. "NFU encourages USDA to delay the FSIS approval of Namibia as an exporter of beef until APHIS reevaluates the status of FMD in the country, given the latest outbreak."

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Last Modified: 11/19/2015 2:52:02 pm MST

More than 40,000 Signatures Collected & Delivered to Put an End to Gerrymandering in the State

November 10, 2015

Voters will have a voice November 2016 thanks to the efforts of South Dakota Farmers Union and volunteers statewide who worked tirelessly to collect 40,400 signatures for the Independent Redistricting Commission.

 "This was truly a grassroots effort," says Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "Collecting signatures in order to give voters an opportunity to end gerrymandering wasn't easy - but there was buy-in from South Dakotans, regardless of party, because it is the right thing to do."

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Last Modified: 11/10/2015 8:56:37 am MST

SDFU expresses concerns over recent JBS Acquisition: Rapid Concentration in Agriculture Hurting Family Farmers and Ranchers

November 10, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke expressed concern over the rapid consolidation in agriculture after the Department of Justice approved the purchase of Cargill Inc.'s pork unit by the Brazilian pork packer JBS.

 "Growing concentration in agriculture is cause for concern," said Sombke, a fourth generation Conde farmer. "Department of Justice has shown that it is not willing to stand in the way. With each acquisition, the voice of the family farmer becomes more diluted leaving family farmers and ranchers at a significant disadvantage."

 National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson also weighed in on the recent acquisition. "It's time for the Department of Justice to wake up and realize that simply rubber stamping every merger and acquisition request that comes before it is directly undermining our nation's already vulnerable family farmers and small producers," said Johnson. 

 Johnson is especially troubled by the fact that the Department of Justice has  not asked for a single restriction on this deal.  "While they have argued that family farmers are free to comment if they have any concerns, the unfortunate fact is that most producers are afraid to speak out, fearing retribution by the handful of meatpackers who run the show," Johnson said.

 After the deal is complete, more than  70 percent of pork processing ability within the United States will be controlled by just four companies.

 With this acquisition, JBS becomes the second-largest pork packer in the nation, second only to Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods.

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Last Modified: 11/10/2015 8:55:02 am MST

Farmer & Soldier Reflects on Freedom & Love of Farming

November 2, 2015

Taking a break from soybean harvest, Tyler Gerlach climbs into a John Deere 9430 and begins planting winter wheat. Well into the rhythm of planting, Gerlach, 31, begins visiting about the double life he leads ­ that of a Stickney farmer and the former Company Commander of the 1742nd Army National Guard Transportation Company.

 As foreign as the two careers may seem from one another - Captain Gerlach was recently responsible for the lives of 160 National Guard soldiers whereas Farmer Gerlach, along with his brother, LaRon, are stewards of the land, raising 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat - Gerlach says there are many circumstances when his background in farming makes him a better soldier and being a soldier makes him a better farmer/business owner.

 "Farmers learn not to make rash decisions. Just like planting corn. You don't plant when it's muddy because it won't grow as well. As a soldier I analyze everything and take all conditions into consideration before making a decision," says Gerlach, who returned from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan last October.

 His years of leadership experience and training in the Army National Guard taught him the value of planning ahead. "In the military we plan for everything well ahead of time," he explains. "If something doesn't pan out, we don't get upset, we move on to the next plan. Sounds a lot like farming doesn't it?" 

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Last Modified: 11/02/2015 9:20:23 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Sombke Farm Family

November 2, 2015

Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union highlights members who farm or ranch with their families each month. This November, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Sombke family who farm together near Conde.

 By Lura Roti, for SDFU; Photos by Kaylee Speck Photography

 In 1978, when Doug Sombke made the decision to farm fulltime after high school, times were tough.

 "To explain how broke we were, I tell people that when Mel and I got married we couldn¹t afford an oven. We cooked on a hotplate," Sombke recalls.

 But he was determined to make a go of it. Starting with 38 acres and the 4-H flock of 150 registered Suffolk ewes he and his brother, Dean, had built, Sombke stuck with it. He leased from neighbors, share cropped and eventually purchased land.

 Along with sheep, the fourth generation Brown County farmer started a cow/calf herd and eventually expanded to operate a feedlot.

For more of this story click here 

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Last Modified: 11/02/2015 9:11:08 am MST

S.D. Farmers Union Supports Extension to Protect Rail Delivery

October 29, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke commended Congressional approval for an extension of the implementation requirement for Positive Train Control (PTC).

 The extension approved Oct. 28, 2015 by the U.S. Senate prevents a serious interruption of service, protecting American farmers, ranchers, and others who rely on the rail system.

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Last Modified: 10/29/2015 2:03:38 pm MDT

Cooperative Patrons Need to Read & Address CHS Proposed Bylaw Changes

October 22, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, urges cooperative patrons to weigh in on CHS proposed bylaw changes.

 "If the suggested bylaw changes are passed, they will significantly alter the philosophy of CHS which could have a negative impact on family farmers and could result in changes to the local cooperative business structure," explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer who belongs to several local cooperatives.

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Last Modified: 10/22/2015 7:11:34 am MDT

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Meeks Ranch Family

October 5, 2015

Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union highlights members who farm or ranch with their families each month. This October, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Meeks family who ranch on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Land is sacred in the Lakota culture which Jim and Elsie Meeks were both raised.

 For almost four decades the ranch couple has worked hard to care for their Pine Ridge Reservation ranch-land and make the family ranch sustainable for the next generation.

 "The land is sacred. If you take care of it, it will take care of you. This is a belief that most Natives and, I believe, ranchers of all backgrounds, share," explains Elsie.

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Last Modified: 10/05/2015 10:39:38 am MDT

Celebrate South Dakota's Cooperatives: Member-owned & Member Led for Almost a Century

October 5, 2015

For many of South Dakota's rural communities, cooperatives have served as a lifeline to technology, products and services which have allowed local farmers, ranchers and businesses to grow and thrive.

 "Co-ops have played an important role in our state's progress," explains Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "When companies didn't want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to bring electricity, telephone service, fuel and agriculture inputs to the countryside, our state's farmers and ranchers banded together to form member-owned cooperatives."

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Last Modified: 10/05/2015 7:28:21 am MDT