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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates a Century of Cooperative Leadership in South Dakota

February 17, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates a Century of Cooperative Leadership in South Dakota 

Owen Jones, 77, can clearly remember the day electricity came to his family's Britton farm. "It made a big difference when we went to milk cows because we could turn lights on in the barn and didn't have to worry about tipping over a lantern," says the third-generation farmer, referencing the kerosene lantern which hung on a wire that ran the length of the barn. For light, Jones, his dad and brothers would simply slide the lantern along as they did chores.

 Jones was 12-years-old when Lake Regional Electric Cooperative brought electricity to rural Marshall and Day Counties. His dad, Arthur, was among the founding members responsible for the co-op's development. "Dad was a strong cooperative-minded person. Early on, he realized that if he wanted a better lifestyle in the country, he would have to work for it and organize cooperatives."

 It's no surprise that Arthur was also actively involved in his local Farmers Union Chapter. Cooperative development was the original mission of Farmers Union when South Dakota farmers and ranchers established the organization in 1914. "Cooperatives are the reason the Farmers Union organization began. Its founders felt they didn't have a real good market for their products, so they decided to collectively market their products together," explains Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "At that time, some received more for their grain than others, so by coming together they had a better chance of higher prices."

 This basic concept that uniting farmers could obtain better prices for the products they grew and raised is what drove National Farmers Union founder and its first president, Newt Gresham. According to historian, Lynwood E. Oyos' book The Family Farmers' Advocate, "He (Newt Gresham) constantly reiterated that family farmers needed a voice and an organization to fight for their rights and survival. Farmers, Gresham argued, were continually being exploited by non-farmers."

 Gresham and the organizations' 10 founding members established the Farmer's Educational and Cooperative Union of America near Point, Texas, in 1902. According to Oyos' account, by 1914 the message was carried to South Dakota by Nebraskan member J.K. Weinmaster. The first farmer he visited with about Farmers Union was Knute Strand who farmed about 8 miles southwest of Mitchell.

 Strand became the first paid-up South Dakota Farmers Union member and loaned his buggy to Weinmaster to spread the message to his neighbors. On Feb. 6, 1914, Strand was among the state's 17 charter members.

 The message of "together we can accomplish what we can't alone" resonated with farmers across the state. Soon, what had begun in Davison County spread and within two years, the state boasted the required 5,000 dues paying members to receive a state charter recognized by the national organization.

 Less than a decade after receiving their state charter, Farmers Union grain, livestock, insurance, wholesale and retail marketing cooperatives were serving their member/owners in several South Dakota counties. By the 1930s Farmers Union oil, cream buying stations and credit union cooperatives were also established in rural townships and communities across the state.

 "Co-ops have played an important role in our state's progress," explains Sombke, a fourth generation Conde farmer. "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."

 "Farmers Union helped people understand that there were things they could do together that they couldn't do by themselves," explains Jones, who has served on several cooperative boards throughout his farming career and currently serves on the American Coalition of Ethanol board.

 Healthy Competition

Along with providing needed services, cooperatives created marketing competition in what was a monopoly run by off-farm interests. According to Oyos' book, by the 1880s South Dakota's grain producers were at the mercy of "an unfair price structure determined by milling magnates and commodity firms in the Twin Cities and Chicago."

 This issue extended to livestock producers who faced their own set of corporate competitors explained Jim Woster, a retired stockyards buyer, who today spends his time advocating for many South Dakota agricultural organizations.

 "I started working for Farmers Union Livestock the morning after I graduated from South Dakota State University in 1962. In those days, most livestock farmers didn't sell that many cattle. When they did sell, they were not in the position to compete with corporations like Morrell's, so commission firms like Farmers Union Livestock played a valuable role in getting those producers a fair price," Woster said.

 The competition cooperatives bring to today's marketplace, whether in purchasing inputs for their owner/members or marketing grain, is important even today, explains Dave Andresen, CEO of Full Circle Ag, a full service agriculture cooperative that serves ag producers in 12 counties in northeast South Dakota and southeast North Dakota.

 "In the last few years we've seen a lot of money come into production agriculture from outside interests - Wall Street, Silicon Valley and international players like China and Japan. If you do business with an international corporation, the profits leave the country," Andresen explains. "Whereas when you do business with your local cooperative, the money stays in the community and profits are returned to the farmer/owners."

 Andresen appreciates the role Farmers Union continues to play in supporting cooperatives through youth education and lobbying state and national government. "Only 1.7 percent of the people serving in D.C. have any ties to agriculture, yet they are setting our policy," he says. "If it had not been for Farmers Union and other farm organizations stepping up and lobbying Congress during the recent rail crisis, I don't think we would have seen any resolution." 

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Last Modified: 02/17/2015 7:51:35 am MST


Youth Learn Legislative Process during 3-Day Trip to Pierre

February 17, 2015

Youth Learn Legislative Process during 3-Day Trip to Pierre

 

HURON, S.D. - When you're 15, politics can be confusing. South Dakota¹s Legislature is now more understandable for the teens who earned their way to attend the Farmers Union Two Year Legislative Award Trip, Feb 3-5, 2015.

"Until we made this trip to Pierre, we didn't understand what the Legislators do here exactly; it's been so interesting to see how it works," said Sammi Murtha, 15, a freshman at Parkston High School.

Her friend, Jennifer Hanson, adds; "It's one thing to read about the Legislative process in school, but by being here in the Capitol we get to see it live,²"says the Britton/Hecla High School freshman.

Like many youth who become involved in Farmers Union Youth Programs, Murtha lives in a rural community and enjoys the opportunity Farmers Union gives her to meet youth from across the state and learn about topics like leadership and cooperatives, which are not typically taught in school. Her friend Taylin Montague, 14, agrees.

"Farmers Union events bring us together with other people we would not have an opportunity to meet otherwise. I live in New Underwood and these girls live in eastern South Dakota ­ we became friends at camp," Montague, a freshman at New Underwood High School, explains.

Along with teaching youth about how their state's government works, the Legislative Youth Trip is designed as one of four reward trips youth can earn throughout their high school years, explains Bonnie Geyer, Farmers Union Education Director.

"Within the youth program there are five levels of achievement. Students earn their way to each level through community service projects, essays and participation in Farmers Union events," Geyer says.

The reward trips coincide with the Farmers Union mission and triangle ­ Cooperation, Legislation and Education. Their first year youth can attend State Leadership Camp at half price, the second year is the Pierre Legislative trip, the third year is a trip to Minneapolis to learn about Cooperatives and fourth year students can earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Camp in Colorado. The fifth year is their Torchbearer award, the highest honor bestowed upon youth in Farmers Union. Torchbearers earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Convention.

"These trips offer incentive as well as valuable opportunities for students," Geyer says. Jonah Murtha, 16, whole-heartedly agrees. "I've learned a lot about cooperatives and cooperation in general," explains the Parkston High School Sophomore.

The group was able to join other Farmers Union members in the annual Farmers Union Legislative Day activities, attend committee hearings, observe floor action in both the House and Senate and meet with lobbyists, pages and interns. The group also visited the Law Enforcement Training Academy, the World War II, Vietnam and Fighting Stallions Memorials, the Discovery Center and toured the Capitol.

To learn more about Farmers Union Youth Programs, contact Geyer at (605) 352-6761 ext. 125.  

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Last Modified: 02/17/2015 7:48:13 am MST


Mad Cow Disease in Canada Affirms Need for COOL

February 13, 2015

The recent case of Mad Cow disease confirmed in Canada affirms the value of COOL (County-of-Origin-Labeling) to protect Americans’ meat supply, said Doug Sombke South Dakota Farmers Union President.

“Do you really want your lawmakers to repeal a law that tells you where your food comes from? In light of the confirmation of a disease with fatal implications in Canada, it is hard not to support a law that gives consumers basic information on where their food comes from,” Sombke said.

Today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed mad cow disease in a beef cow in Alberta, Canada. To read more about this case, visit South Dakota Farmers Union Facebook page.

South Dakota Farmers Union urges consumers and producers alike to call their representatives today in support of leaving COOL in our federal law. The switchboard to the Capitol is (202) 224-3121.

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Last Modified: 02/13/2015 1:05:43 pm MST


South Dakota Farmers Union, Cattle Producers & Consumers Praise U.S. Dist. Court Decision to Dismiss COOL Lawsuit

February 12, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, praised the Feb. 9, 2015 dismissal of the U.S. District Court lawsuit on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), filed by the multinational meatpacking industry and their allies in an attempt to stop the USDA from implementing the very popular labeling law.

"COOL is designed to protect the rights of American cattle producers and consumers. This dismissal ensures the right to know where food is produced," said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth generation Conde crop and cattle producer.

The papers ending the long and costly lawsuit were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ending American Meat Institute (AMI) et al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al., originally filed in July 2013.

"This is a clear and indisputable win for American consumers and producers, and it's a huge relief to know that common-sense labeling laws, like COOL, can prevail in court despite the deep pockets of the multinationals," said Natl. Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.

The dismissal comes on the heels of the Jan. 22, 2015, release of a new study conducted by Auburn University Professor, Robert Taylor, which showed that allegations that COOL depressed prices of Canadian cattle were false. The study not only demonstrated that fed cattle price basis actually declined after COOL went into effect, but also that COOL had no negative impact on imports of slaughter cattle and did not significantly affect imports of feeder cattle. To read more about this study, visit www.sdfu.org and review the News Reel

Agribusiness Update with Greg Martin

Agri-Pulse: Study finds COOL had no role in drop in imports of Canadian cattle

AgWeb: New Study: Economic downturn and other factors, not COOL, caused decline in live cattle imports to the U.S.

AgWeek: NFU releases COOL study

Brownfield Ag News: Study says COOL has not hurt Canadian cattle prices

Capital Press: Study rebuts Canada’s claim of economic harm from COOL

The Daily Yonder: Roundup: Study: COOL doesn’t harm market

DTN Progressive Farmer: NFU doubts cattle import basis

Farm Futures/Beef Producer: Study suggests COOL didn't contribute to lower live cattle imports to U.S.

Farm Progress: Study suggests COOL didn’t contribute to lower live cattle imports to U.S.

FERN’s Ag Insider (Subscriber Only)

Food Chemical News: COOL debate heats up as both sides make fresh arguments

Food Safety News: Study suggests Country-of-Origin Labeling has not hurt U.S. meat imports

Food Poisoning Bulletin: Study Finds COOL Labels Haven’t Affected Livestock Exports

Hagstrom Report: New study debunks impact of COOL as opponents ask Congress to act (Subscriber Only)

High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal: New study confirms: COOL does not adversely affect Mexico, Canada trade

Hoosier Ag Today: Study confirms COOL doesn’t affect volume, price of cattle exports to U.S.

Jefferson Journal: New front emerges in battle over COOL

Lincoln Journal Star: Farm and Food: Kicking around country of origin labeling

Muscatine Journal: The COOL facts

Politico: New study makes case that COOL didn’t hurt cattle imports (Subscriber Only)

  Link to Dr. Taylor’s Audio News Release: http://bit.ly/1yJyGbv

 Sample Social Media Posts:

 Think Canada has a claim against COOL? Think again: http://bit.ly/1yJyGbv #keepCOO

C Robert Taylor: COOL did not negatively impact imports of slaughter or feeder cattle. http://bit.ly/1yJyGbv #keepCOOL

 Canadian claims of economic damage because of COOL are simply without merit: http://bit.ly/1yJyGbv #keepCOOL

Dr. Robert Taylor's new study confirms COOL dosen't affect Canadian cattle exports the US:  http://bit.ly/1yJyGbv #keepCOOL


 "The findings of this study are an exciting discovery for U.S. cattle producers who are proud of the meat we produce, as well as for the consumers who want to know where their food comes from," Sombke said.

Sombke explained that this study is completely transparent, unlike the one it debunks. "This study was conducted using mandatory pricing data made public by the packers, whereas the study it contradicts used information that is not available to the public. This raised a lot of suspicion," Sombke said.

Last week a Canadian delegation comprised of the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz and members of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Meat Council made a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill. Johnson called the trip "their last act of desperation." Johnson urged members of Congress to stand by the popular labeling law - supported by roughly 90 percent of consumers - and urged the Canadians to allow the World Trade Organization to consider the new study and the total body of information and arrive at a decision on its own.

 "If the U.S. Courts are any indication of the trajectory of success of COOL, then American consumers are finally going to be permitted to know where their food comes from without intervention from our chief trade competitors and their multinational allies," Johnson said.

Call to action

National Farmers Union encourages consumers and cattle producers alike to reach out to Congress and urge them to not be influenced by foreign governments and foreign competitors and leave COOL alone. A link to the Auburn University study can be found at  www.nfu.org. The main number to the Hill switch board is 202-224-3121.

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Last Modified: 02/12/2015 9:50:48 am MST


South Dakota Farmers Union Praises U.S. Dist. Court Decision to Dismiss COOL Lawsuit

February 10, 2015

HURON, S.D. - South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke praised the Feb. 9, 2015 dismissal of the U.S. District Court lawsuit on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), filed by the multinational meatpacking industry and their allies in an attempt to stop the USDA from implementing the very popular labeling law.

 "COOL is designed to protect the rights of American cattle producers and consumers. This dismissal ensures the right to know where food is produced," said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth generation, Conde crop and cattle producer.

 The papers ending the long and costly lawsuit were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ending American Meat Institute (AMI) et al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al., originally filed in July, 2013.

 "This is a clear and indisputable win for American consumers and producers, and it's a huge relief to know that common-sense labeling laws, like COOL, can prevail in court despite the deep pockets of the multinationals," said Natl. Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.

 The dismissal comes on the heels of the Jan. 22, 2015 release of a new study conducted by Auburn University Professor, Robert Taylor which showed that allegations that COOL depressed prices of Canadian cattle were false. The study not only demonstrated that fed cattle price basis actually declined after COOL went into effect, but also that COOL had no negative impact on imports of slaughter cattle and did not significantly affect imports of those of feeder cattle.

  "The findings of this study are an exciting discovery for U.S. cattle producers who are proud of the meat we produce as well as for the consumers who want to know where their food comes from," Sombke said.

 Sombke explained that this study is completely transparent, unlike the one it debunks. "This study was conducted using mandatory pricing data made public by the packers, whereas the study it contradicts used information that is not available to the public. This raised a lot of suspicion," Sombke said.

 Last week a Canadian delegation comprised of the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz and members of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Meat Council made a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill. Johnson called the trip "their last act of desperation." Johnson urged members of Congress to stand by the popular labeling law - supported by roughly 90 percent of consumers - and urged the Canadians to allow the World Trade Organization to consider the new study and the total body of information and arrive at a decision on its own.

 "If the U.S. Courts are any indication of the trajectory of success of COOL, then American consumers are finally going to be permitted to know where their food comes from without intervention from our chief trade competitors and their multinational allies," Johnson said.

 Call to action

National Farmers Union encourages consumers and cattle producers alike to reach out to Congress and urge them to not be influenced by foreign governments and foreign competitors and leave COOL alone. A link to the Auburn University study can be found at www.nfu.org. The main number to the Hill switch board is 202-224-3121.

  

Link to Preliminary Estimates of the Impacts of U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on Cattle Trade Study: http://www.nfu.org/images/COOLReport1132015Final.pdf

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Last Modified: 02/10/2015 9:59:39 am MST


S.D. Farmers Union says Renewable Fuels Standard Reform Act Will Negatively Impact SD Farmers, Rural Communities & Ethanol Industry

February 9, 2015


HURON, S.D. - The Renewable Fuels Standard Reform Act released yesterday could have a negative impact on South Dakota's farmers, rural communities and ethanol industry if the recommendations become law, said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 In the report, it is recommended an end to ethanol subsidies, which are included as part of the current Renewable Fuels Standard.

 "Our South Dakota's farmers and rural communities have benefited greatly from what has been a thriving ethanol industry in our state," Sombke explained. "Especially today, with commodity prices as low as they are, the ability to market corn to local ethanol plants has increased our price per bushel by at least 10 cents. Not to mention the economic impact the ethanol industry has throughout our state."

 Sombke refers to the approximately 1,900 South Dakotans employed by the industry who earn, on average, about $60,000 each year. A 2012 study conducted by the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association, noted an annual economic impact of about $3.8 billion statewide. Nationally, South Dakota ranks sixth in ethanol production.

 "Ethanol has become a part of the fabric of many rural communities; if they take ethanol subsidies away, it will hurt schools, jobs and not to mention the price of corn. For the EPA to suggest removing subsidies from a clean burning fuel baffles me. Why aren't they also suggesting that Big Oil lose its subsidies?" Sombke asked.

 Sombke's comments echo that of Roger Johnson, President of National Farmers Union.

 Following the Feb. 4, 2015 recommendations to eliminate the corn-based ethanol mandate for biofuel production and restrict overall volume targets; Johnson said, "The elimination of the corn-based ethanol mandate and blend cap will gut the nation's biofuel production, strand existing investment in second generation biofuel production and hurt family farmers, ranchers and rural communities that have experienced much-needed reinvestment from this policy. This is not only a bad step for agriculture, but also is a major setback to the environment and our nation's attempts to manage its carbon emissions. We urge Congress to reject this policy and continue to embrace the vision of a robust renewable fuels industry as a component of this nation's overall energy portfolio."

 To learn more about Farmers Union visit, www.sdfu.org.


Courtesy of SDFU Doug Sombke, President, South Dakota Farmers Union. 


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Last Modified: 02/10/2015 10:22:52 am MST


Junior REAL: South Dakota Farmers Union Continues to Cultivate Leaders in South Dakota's Youth

January 29, 2015

HURON, S.D. - Through South Dakota Farmers Union Jr. REAL (Junior Rural Economic and Leadership) program, high school juniors and seniors in rural schools across the state have been learning about community service, leadership and personal finance for the past nine years.

The program gets kids to start thinking about the choices they are making with money.

Karla Hofhenke, S.D. Farmers Union Executive Director, says they try to bring Jr. REAL to 10 locations each fall and winter to deliver their daylong program. Britton-Hecla was one of those locations this fall.

 "We gained great real life and practical things that kids could apply to their own lives and the future. All four of the presentations were very pertinent to juniors and seniors and things that are happening in their lives right now, plus the things that are happening in the next couple of years as they transition to college," says Carrie James, principal at Britton-Hecla High School.

 James appreciates the effort that Farmers Union puts into bringing such a great program to rural schools. The organization comes well prepared, leaving little additional work for the school district.

 "As a rural school, sometimes we don't have all the different opportunities that maybe a more urban school might have," James says. "I knew it would be a quality experience. I know that Farmers Union is a very big supporter of our schools."

For the second year, SDFU sponsored a public service announcement (PSA) contest after the Jr. REAL program.

 Hofhenke says the PSA contest gives the students a chance to show what they learned from the program in a fun way. She says the PSAs appeal to students because they can use modern technology to create something fun and educational.

 Pat Renner, elementary physical education teacher and high school multimedia teacher at Britton-Hecla, had three teams complete a PSA. However, only one can be submitted to the contest. Their team made up of junior, Toni Symens, and sophomores, Ben Boyko, Tyler Bush and Laken Olson, won the contest.

For their video, they put together a re-enactment where two students graduate from high school and go out and get credit cards. One makes good choices and the other makes poor choices and ends up living on the street.

 The team hopes viewers will learn how to make better decisions financially.

"I hope they'll see the gravity of the situation if you make bad choices," Boyko says.

Renner says the PSA contest was a good avenue for his students to research more about credit cards and credit scores.

 "I think it's always good for the kids to learn about their finances at an early age because sometimes they don't get that at home," Renner says.

 Symens says the Jr. REAL program was educational and helped them learn about credit scores. She says it will help prepare her for decisions she will need to make heading into college.

 Hofhenke feels the PSAs do a great job in helping students to understand financial situations. She hopes the Jr. REAL program will help South Dakota's young people make wiser decisions as they become adults.

 "The choices today equal your opportunities tomorrow," Hofhenke says.     

Courtesy photo
Students from Britton-Hecla win the SDFU sponsored public service announcement contest. Students pictured include: Laken Olson, Ben Boyko, Tyler Bush and Toni Symens of Britton-Hecla High School won the South Dakota Farmers Union PSA contest. 

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Last Modified: 01/29/2015 9:29:00 am MST


South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates January Farm Family

January 29, 2015

Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union will highlight a South Dakota farm or ranch family each month. In January, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Kippley family who farms near Aberdeen.
 
Like all business owners, farmers are always crunching numbers, so the fact that John Kippley, 69, and his son, Jeff, 35, both have accounting degrees works well for the Aberdeen farmers. "The two go hand-in-hand because you're always trying to figure out what crop to plant based on cash flow," John explains.

The oldest of eight boys, John grew up on a diversified farm in Iowa. Because his family's farm could not support more than one family, his parents encouraged him and his younger brothers to find careers off the farm right after high school.

However, this didn't detour John from dreaming of someday owning a farm of his own. He attended a two-year business school in Sioux Falls and graduated with a degree in tax preparation.

In 1975, only five years after H&R Block sent John and his wife, Geraldine, to open an office in Aberdeen, he purchased his first 40 acres of land.

A few years later Jeff was born. "I never knew life without the farm," explains the second generation farmer, who followed a very similar career path to his father.

Today, Jeff and his wife, Rachel, own the H&R Block and farm with John, who operates Kippley Tax Service.

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Last Modified: 01/29/2015 9:08:50 am MST


SDFU Strengthens Rural Communities through Scholarships

January 8, 2015

The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation announces the 2015 Foundation Scholarship recipients. The students include: Alexandra Farber, Britton; Jonathan Linke, Woonsocket; and Tyana Gottsleben, Philip. These students will be attending post-secondary education in South Dakota in fall 2015.

Since 1961, the S.D. Farmers Union Foundation has invested in the lives of rural youth because the organization believes education is crucial to the future of South Dakota's rural communities and the state's family farms and ranches.

"Part of our mission is to help our young people as they pursue education and to aid them in their future careers," said Bonnie Geyer, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director. "We hope that by attending South Dakota schools, more students will return to their rural communities to help make these communities stronger."

As the Education Director for more than 17 years, Geyer works with Farmers Union Youth Programming which reaches more than 3,000 rural youth (kindergarten through high school) each year through a summer camp program and in-school leadership programming.

The three scholarships awarded include: the Memorial Scholarship, presented on behalf of the families of the late Emil Loriks, Les Saboe and other Farmers Union members; the Cooperative Scholarship, which is awarded on behalf of the late Ben and Dorothy Radcliffe and the families of the late Clifford Ott, Richard Pastian and Adam Seidel; and the Leadership Scholarship, which is presented on behalf of the family of the late Frank Butler.

Applications, which include several essays, as well as letters of recommendation and transcripts, were submitted between Sept. 2014 and Dec. 1, 2014. A committee made of Geyer, S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, and two members (rotating), review the applications and select scholarship recipients on the basis of organizational and community involvement, academic achievement, leadership activities and financial need.

Each year when she reviews the scholarship applications, Geyer says she is optimistic for the future. "These young people are the cream of the crop. They are involved in their communities, have goals and are looking at how they can benefit their state through their future careers," she said.

Doug Sombke echoes Geyer's statement. As President of S.D. Farmers Union, he explained that although academic standing is important, community outreach and involvement plays a large role in which students are selected for the scholarships.

"Students who receive these scholarships are leaders in their communities. They are involved in organizations like Farmers Union, FFA or 4-H," Sombke said. "These scholarships are one of the many ways our organization works to empower the next generation of South Dakotans."

Meet the Recipients

Alexandra Farber of Britton has been awarded a $500 Farmers Union Memorial Scholarship on behalf of the families of Emil Loriks, Les Saboe and other Farmers Union members who have donated to the memorial scholarship fund. Farber is the daughter of Tom and Lori Farber and is a senior at Britton High School. She plans to attend South Dakota State University Honors College to major in marketing and theatre, with a minor in English. In 2014, Farber received the S. D. Farmers Union Torchbearer award. In addition to Farmers Union Youth Programming, Farber is involved in oral interpretation, drama, choir and volleyball, and serves on the Britton Public Library Youth Advisory Board, as well as many other community and scholastic activities.

Jonathan Linke of Woonsocket has been awarded a $500 Farmers Union Cooperative Scholarship on behalf of Ben and Dorothy Radcliffe and the families of Cliff Ott, Dick Pastian and Adam Seidel. Linke is the son of Henry and Paula Linke and is a senior at Woonsocket High School. After graduation, Jonathan plans to attend South Dakota State University and is considering a major in Ag Journalism. In 2014, Linke received the S. D. Farmers Union Torchbearer award. In addition to Farmers Union Youth Programming, Linke is involved in band, FFA, 4-H, All State Chorus, VFW Baseball and St. Wilfred's Youth Group, as well as many other community and scholastic activities.

Tyana Gottsleben of Philip has been awarded a $500 Farmers Union Leadership Scholarship on behalf of the family of Frank Butler. She is the daughter of Bill and Jayne Gottsleben and is a senior at Philip High School. Tyana plans to pursue a degree in education. In 2014, Gottsleben received the S. D. Farmers Union Torchbearer award and was selected to serve on the 2015 Farmers Union Senior Advisory Council. In addition to Farmers Union Youth Programming, Gottsleben is involved in Family Career & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), track, band, choir, class treasurer and Sacred Heart Catholic Youth Group, as well as many other community and scholastic activities.

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Last Modified: 01/08/2015 7:27:41 am MST


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