News

South Dakota Farmers Union President Granted Audience with Pope Francis & Vatican Leaders to Discuss Importance of Family Farming and Ranching

March 26, 2015

HURON, S.D. - South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke was among five Farmers Union state presidents who were granted an audience with Pope Francis, March 25, 2015.

Sombke met with the Pope following a weeklong series of meetings with Vatican officials and rural-based non-governmental organizations to discuss the important role family farmers play in food security as well as the fact that most food produced in the U.S. is produced by family farmers.

 "This was an incredible opportunity for South Dakota Farmers Union and our brother organizations across the United States to work with the Vatican and network with others in Europe for the future of family farming," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and livestock farmer. "It also affords us the opportunity to let the world know what farming in the United States is truly like."

 Sombke added that one of its biggest challenges the Farmers Union delegation faced was dispelling the widely held myth that U.S. agriculture is completely dominated by large, multinational corporations. "Many see American farmers as corporate-controlled and nothing else."

  The delegation also spent time with Caldoritti, the largest farm organization in Italy, the International Catholic Rural Association and the secretary general of the World Farmers Organization. These meetings were held prior to an international symposium of faith, food and the environment that will take place in Milan, Italy, June 24 to 27, 2015.

 The two principal organizations representing the U.S. were National Farmers Union and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. The findings of earlier symposiums and these meetings in Rome both will be used to develop The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, a set of resources that Catholic Rural Life is developing with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican.

  "All religions are concerned about stewardship and the environment. And this is a belief that can help unite a very divided world," said Dave Velde, National Farmers Union chief counsel, about the discussions that took place in Rome, which he felt transcended all national borders and religious beliefs.  

 Alan Merrill, president of Montana Farmers Union agreed. "After spending time revisiting the values we hold, with the emphasis on our spiritual, moral and physical responsibilities to the land and the production of food, Farmers Union grassroots membership should be proud that these same ideas are held high around the world."

 Discussion not only included land use and conservation, but also a resource that is increasingly scarce: fresh water. "In discussions with Vatican officials on environmental issues, one of their concerns is water and the availability in the major agriculture producing regions of the world. Whether it's drought or contamination we need to make sure that the water supply remains safe and abundant," said Darin Von Ruden, Wisconsin Farmers Union president.

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Last Modified: 03/26/2015 12:43:43 pm MDT


South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates Christensen Farm Family

March 16, 2015

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates Christensen Farm Family 

Ask Marlow Christensen and his three sons, Dale, Don and Doug, why they chose farming as a career and their responses are similar.

"It's all we've ever known," explains Dale, who, like his younger brothers, joined the family operation full-time right out of high school.

His brother, Don, adds, "I didn't think about doing anything else. I enjoy working with the cattle, basically every bit of the work involved - even things like scraping the yards in the mornings."

Celebrating 51 years of marriage this year, Marlow and his wife, Donna, got their start in farming a year after they married. They rented the farm southwest of Beresford from Marlow's mom, Lucille (Jensen) Christensen, in 1965. Lucille's grandpa homesteaded the land in 1887.

Since the beginning, the work of running the feedyard and raising crops has been a family affair. "When the boys were too little to walk, I would put them in their little red wagon and they would sit there and watch us work in the barns," Donna recalls.

Even today, the family is not incorporated. They all share a percentage of the expenses and profits brought in by the 2,000-head feedyard and crops they market.

All in the Family: Two Generations Operate Family Farm Together near Beresford


Looking out over his family's feedyards, Marlow Christensen remembers the days when he was one of many farmer feeders.

Today, the landscape has changed. Marlow and his wife, Donna, and their sons, Dale, Don and Doug, are one of few farm families in the area to operate a feedyard.

Although they have fed out cattle since Marlow and Donna rented the farm in 1965, the feedyard became the focus of their farming operation in 2000 when they got out of the hog business and expanded from a 1,200-head feedyard to a 2,000-head feedyard.

Marlow is careful to distinguish the difference between a farmer feeder and a feedlot. "This is not a feedlot. We do not custom feed any cattle. We own all the cattle in this feedyard," Marlow explains.

He is also quick to explain that Christensen Farms is not a corporation. He and his sons work together in all aspects of the family farm. They all own a percentage of the cattle and own their own farmland. "We all write a check when we buy the cattle and each get a check once the cattle are sold," Marlow says. "We farm the land with one big tractor and share expenses based on percentage of ownership."

Marlow and Donna decided early on that they didn't want to employ their sons - nor did they want to draw checks from a family farm entity.

"Each person is responsible for his own actions and financial situation," Marlow says. "At the end of the year, my daughters-in-law and my wife can see what we did individually."

Working together since childhood, the family remains close knit. "We all go to church together," Donna says. "When the grandkids were young, the bus would drop them off here almost every day until their moms got home from work."

It all began with $7,000 in equity

Instead of attending college, Marlow made it clear to his parents that farming full-time was the path he wanted to take. So, his dad, Ralph, came to him and said that instead of college tuition, he would give him $7,000 worth of livestock and farm machinery.

It was about that same time that Marlow and Donna married. Marlow went to the bank and used the Super M Farmall, 12 gilts, a straight disc, a two-bottom plow, a stack of hay and a three-ring corn crib as equity for a loan to purchase 80-head of feeder cattle.

"My dad never signed a note for me, so we built up our farm slowly.  We are honest and try to be good neighbors," Marlow says.

Good Neighbors

Being a good neighbor paid off. Over time, as neighbors retired, Marlow and his sons expanded the farm's footprint by first leasing land from neighbors and then eventually purchasing it. "We've been awful lucky that neighbors have come to us asking if we wanted to lease land. We have also had really good landlords, and over the years we've purchased just about all our land from our landlords," Marlow says.

"It's about being good stewards of the land," Dale adds. "Our family takes care of the land because we want it to be here for our children and grandchildren."

With a Department of Energy & Natural Resources (DENR) approved 2,000-head feedyard, Dale and his brothers understand the daily work that goes into intensive land, water and manure management. All waste from the feedyard runs into a containment basin; the water is filtered off and held in a grey water pond which irrigates about 90 acres of corn. The remaining manure is applied to their fields in accordance with their manure management plan, which is updated annually. "We test our soil each year to determine what we can apply - the plan is intensive but it saves us some input costs," Dale explains.

Weekly, the Christensens inspect the basin and pond's integrity.

Located within eyesight of Beresford and a stone's throw from I-29, the Christensens are serious about complying not only with DENR standards, but also with the high standards they set for themselves to maintain a beautiful farm. Each summer the family paints several yards of white fence that borders the interstate edge of the feedyard. "There are a lot of people who drive up and down the interstate each day. This is another way to be a good neighbor," Dale explains.

Good corn prices are good for this cattle feeder

Farming full-time for 50 years, Marlow, Donna and their sons have seen some tough times in farming. In the darkest days of the 1980s, Marlow says the family pulled together and somehow made it through. "The 80s were tough. We worked hard as a family to get through those years," Marlow says.

In addition, Marlow says belonging to Farm Credit, a credit cooperative, was also invaluable. "It is so important to have a bank stand behind you - in good times and in bad times." Marlow served on the Farm Credit Services of America board for 15 years.

Since the beginning, the family has traveled to auction markets across the state to purchase their feeder cattle. "We have to write the check, so we might as well look at cattle before we buy them," Doug says.

Because of the link between the price of corn and feeder cattle, these farmer feeders aren't excited about cheap corn. "We, like all other farmers, need a stable price for corn," Marlow says.

The family raises almost all their own feedstuffs (corn, silage, and earlage), with the exception of the 15 percent of their ration which is dried distillers grains (DDGs). They purchase the byproduct of an ethanol plant in Sioux Center, Iowa, from Co-Products of Milford, Iowa. "We feed DDGs for the moisture and fat it adds to the ration," Dale explains. "DDGs keep our ration more consistent year-round, especially during the summer months because of the added moisture."

Although Marlow and Donna remain involved in the family operation, they are semi-retired. Dale's son, Dean, is attending South Dakota State University and plans to become involved full-time in the family farm when he graduates this May. Dean has already started a small cow/calf herd.

"My goal has never been to farm 10,000 acres; it has always been to enable Dean, the sixth generation, to join the operation if he wanted," Dale says. n by Lura Roti, for SDFU Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union will highlight members who farm or ranch with their families each month. In March, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Christensen family who farm near Beresford.

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Last Modified: 03/16/2015 7:45:35 am MDT


South Dakota College Students Learn about Cooperatives During the National Farmers Union Conference on Cooperatives a Success

March 13, 2015

South Dakota College Students Learn about Cooperatives During the National Farmers Union Conference on Cooperatives a Success

Thirty students from Lake Area Technical Institute joined more than 150 college students from 25 states and Puerto Rico to participate in the 2015 National Farmers Union (NFU) College Conference on Cooperatives held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Feb. 19-22, 2015.

"This is an opportunity for the cooperative community to teach young people about cooperative business principles and to show them that there are great careers in these dynamic, ethical and community-minded businesses," said NFU President, Roger Johnson.

Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) students attended as guests of South Dakota Farmers Union. During the event they learned how cooperative businesses are adapting to changing environments and heard from cooperative experts from across the nation on why member-owned businesses are thriving in industries ranging from senior housing to healthcare.

 "Before this trip, I honestly didn't even know what a cooperative was, compared to what I know now," said Wesley Will, a Precision Ag Technology student from Delmont. "Through this experience I learned that there are many different types of cooperatives and there are many different reasons as to why you would form a cooperative - the main reason being that you want to get together with others to make a service or product more feasible."

To bring cooperative education to life, students toured housing, retail, and marketing cooperatives in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They also visited the headquarters of CHS Inc., the nation's largest agricultural cooperative, and the Mill City Museum, built into the ruins of what was once the world's largest flour mill. Students heard from cooperative leaders, farmers and government experts who explained current challenges they face.

"This trip opened my eyes up to the fact that there are different cooperatives out there than the agriculture ones I am familiar with," says Philip Vreugdenhil, a Precision Agriculture student from Parkston. "This experience gave me a much better understanding of what cooperatives are than I could ever learn from a classroom setting."

Presenters ranged from members, directors, employees and managers of traditional and value-added agricultural cooperatives to representatives of housing and worker-owned co-ops, as well as consumer cooperatives such as REI and natural foods co-ops. These professionals offered insights on cooperative development here and abroad.

"Farmers Union remains true to its roots of both being an advocate for cooperative businesses and offering education programs," said Johnson. "Our own history is very closely tied with the cooperative movement. Cooperatives were made possible by legislative activity and organized by farmers and ranchers to strengthen the economic opportunities in rural and urban communities. Farmers Union has a strong commitment to providing cooperative education not only to our own members, but also to the general public, and especially to young people, many of whom are just learning about the cooperative way of doing business."

The conference was organized by National Farmers Union and sponsored by the CHS Foundation, CoBank, Farmers Union Industries Foundation, NFU Foundation, The Cooperative Foundation, CHS Inc., Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation, Federated Youth Foundation and Organic Valley.


Bottom Row (left to right): Jared Gill, Java; Morgan Schultz, Watertown; Kim Miles, Conde; Beau Wensing, Florence; Joey Lesnar, Webster; Dylan Neuhauser, Pierre; Luke Warejcka, Platte; Phil Vreugdenhil, Parkston. Second Row (left to right): Caren Eisenbeisz, Bowdle; John Brennan, Watertown; Bonnie Geyer, Huron; Zach Sumner, Aberdeen; Wes Will, Delmont. Third Row (left to right): Steven Grabow, Milbank; Lincoln Swenson, Watertown; Brandon Potter, Watertown; Kevin Scherr, Watertown; Randy Louwagie, Cottonwood, MN; Abbey Kittelson, Henry; Keith Blochford, Watertown. Fourth Row (left to right): Jaceob Adler, Hazel; Dalton Leisinger, Wentworth; Tyler Anson, Miller; Austin Shroyer, Mitchell; Kaitee Schaefers, Orient. Back Row (left to right): Alec Sibson, Huron; Bryce Bostrom, Watertown; Taylor Sibson, Huron; Dusty Groom, Watertown; William Howard, Watertown; Kolin Kontz, Humboldt; Chad Sjuron, Watertown.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2015 9:27:49 am MDT


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