Media Advisory: Farmers Union to Roll out Initiative to Expand Use of Ethanol, Advanced Biofuels

August 23, 2017

WASHINGTON - The transition to a homegrown, renewable energy future for America is underway. Biofuels, higher blends of ethanol in gasoline, and advanced, bio-based technologies are reaping tremendous benefits for our environment and providing much-needed economic stability to America's farming and rural communities. The U.S. must implement federal-level policies that encourage expanded markets for these energy sources and remove regulatory barriers that inhibit their growth.

To that end, National Farmers Union (NFU), in conjunction with state Farmers Union divisions, will roll out an initiative to advance federal policies that support home grown and home-produced renewable energy sources. NFU President Roger Johnson will be joined by South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke and veteran energy, environment, and agriculture policy specialist Anne Steckel, who will lead the effort.

 WHO: National Farmers Union

 WHAT: NFU Rollout of Ethanol and Advanced Biofuel Initiative

 PARTICIPANTS: Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union

                              Doug Sombke, president, South Dakota Farmers Union

                              Anne Steckel, biofuels advisor, National Farmers Union

 WHERE: 800-875-3456; verbal passcode (spoken to operator): JOHN24548

 WHEN: 10:00 a.m. ET (9 a.m. Central), August 23, 2017

 For more information, contact Andrew Jerome at

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Last Modified: 08/23/2017 7:05:06 am MDT

SDFU Foundation $500 Scholarship Applications Due Nov. 1

August 22, 2017

 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation will be awarding three $500 scholarships to young people who commit to attending a South Dakota college, university or technical school and are children of parents who are current dues-paying members of South Dakota Farmers Union. 

 Scholarships are available to high school seniors or freshmen currently enrolled in a post-secondary institution in South Dakota.

 "South Dakota Farmers Union is all about building South Dakota's rural communities," says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "We invest in rural youth from the time they are in early elementary school and old enough to attend County Day Camps."

 Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director, adds, "These scholarships ensure that the young individuals focusing on rural endeavors are supported along the way. Keeping students in South Dakota is important for the legacy and sustainability of rural communities."

 Deadline is Nov. 1. No late or incomplete applications will be accepted.

 Applications can be found on the S.D. Farmers Union website,, at a local Farmers Union cooperative, or through a local Farmers Union Insurance agent.

 If you do not apply through the online application form, all documents should be mailed to: South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Scholarship Committee, PO Box 1388, Huron, SD 57350-1388; and must be postmarked Nov. 1 or before.

 If you have any questions, contact Haigh-Blume at or 605-352-6761, ext.125.

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Last Modified: 08/22/2017 1:36:23 pm MDT

South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Offers $2,500 Agricultural Graduate School Scholarship 2017

August 22, 2017

Applications for the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate School Scholarship are now available at

 The Farmers Union Foundation Scholarship is designed to help retain talent in South Dakota to support South Dakota's agriculture industry. It is open to students from South Dakota, pursuing a graduate degree in research, animal science, agriculture business or agriculture education at an accredited South Dakota school.

 "Education is our future. This scholarship is one way Farmers Union works to help retain highly skilled individuals in South Dakota," said Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde farmer.

 Application deadline is Nov. 15.

Also sponsored by Travelers Motor Club, scholarship preference is given to students from South Dakota who have/had an affiliation with Farmers Union. Awards are for one academic year, beginning in the fall, and students may reapply at the end of the award period.

 Eligible graduate students include on-campus and distance education students who are pursuing any master's or doctoral program, agriculture teacher certification program (CERT/FCSC) or graduate certificate program (GCERT).

 To learn more, contact Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director, South Dakota Farmers Union, at or call 605-352-6761 ext.114.

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Last Modified: 08/22/2017 1:35:28 pm MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Schiley Ranch Family

August 21, 2017

S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Schiley Ranch Family

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

It's a hot June day and Hope Schiley is on Chico, riding out past the tree belt. When her mom and dad drive out to check on their 5-year-old, she is smiling.

 "Just this summer she really started to enjoy riding. It's fun to see her confidence," says Karin, a fourth-generation cattle producer, who like her husband, Roy John "R.J.," has been riding horses since childhood.

 Once Hope is safely home, Karin, 38, and R.J., 39, head out over the open range to check on a group of pairs grazing in a pasture nearby.

 "The best part of the ranching lifestyle is your kids are always with you," Karin says. "We do rotational grazing, so most days the kids and I will go out to check mineral and water or move the cattle from one pasture to the next."

 Married in 2001, the couple has five school-age children: Macy, 13; Cash, 10; Kate, 9; Hope, 5 and Anne, 4.

 A few pasture gates later, the cows come into view.  Content, they barely acknowledge the pickup.

 The bovines are clearly not concerned by the season-long drought which is top of mind for R.J. and Karin.

 It rained last night. The couple hundredths of an inch of moisture was welcomed with optimism that more will follow.

 "Water is the No. 1 thing," R.J. explains. "When I planted crops this spring the soil was bone dry. It is hard to put those dollars-per-acre in dry ground. But, you always need to be optimistic. If we catch half an inch of rain at the right time - that may be all the crops need."

 "You have to have a little bit of faith," Karin adds.

 Optimistic and faithful, Karin and R.J. are also realists.

 The couple explained that the 2017 drought has dictated several management changes.

To read the complete article and view a photo gallery click here.

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Last Modified: 08/21/2017 8:09:18 am MDT

Community Heroes Honored & Farmers Feed Fairgoers During 2017 Farmers Union Day at the State Fair

August 8, 2017

 S.D. Farmers Union will be busy celebrating South Dakota's family farmers, ranchers and those who give back to their rural communities during the 2017 Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, Sept. 2.

"The State Fair is the perfect place to celebrate the people who make up South Dakota agriculture and a great opportunity to visit with those who are not directly tied to farms and ranches," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle producer.  

The Farmers Share Lunch provides one of the best opportunities for farmers, ranchers and the public to mix and mingle, said Terry Sestak, District 1 Farmers Union board member, and fourth-generation Tabor farmer.

 Held in the Farmers Union Tent directly across from the Freedom Stage, the Farmers Share Luncheon, gives fairgoers an opportunity to learn just how much of the grocery store price tag South Dakota's farmers and ranchers take home after harvesting the crops or livestock they raise.

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Last Modified: 08/08/2017 1:46:20 pm MDT

2017 Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship Winners will be Recognized During 2017 Farmers Union Day at the S.D. State Fair

August 7, 2017

The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation, in cooperation with Farmers Union Insurance Agency, have announced the recipients of the annual Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow scholarships. Scholarship recipients will be recognized during the 2017 South Dakota Farmers Union Day at the State Fair, Sept. 2 on the Freedom Stage across from the Farmers Union Tent.

 Twenty-five high school seniors from across South Dakota will share $25,000 in scholarships to be used to further their education at a South Dakota post-secondary school. 

 Over the past 10 years, the foundation has awarded more than $250,000 in scholarships to students attending South Dakota post-secondary schools.

Each of the 25 scholarship recipients will receive $1,000 to put toward their post-secondary education at a South Dakota college, university or technical school. The recipients were chosen from among a large pool of applicants. They were scored based on a combination of academic record, activities and awards, financial need and an essay relating to how they will "Insure a Brighter Tomorrow" in South Dakota.

 Farmers Union Insurance agents throughout the state fund this scholarship program administered by the Farmers Union Foundation. "Our insurance agents are committed to building a brighter future in South Dakota," says Jason Wells, Regional Manager of Farmers Union Insurance Agency. "This is a remarkable group and they make me excited about the future of our great state. We're choosing to invest in these outstanding individuals to help them pursue their goals and aspirations." 

The winners are as follows: Laken Olson, Britton-Hecla High School; Wyatt Ewing, Winner High School; Garrison Gross, Mitchell High School; Hannah Juracek, Gregory High School; Brooklyn Halverson, Lyman High School; Seth Overbay, Huron High School; Ellen Schlechter, Faulkton High School; Kaihlen Smith, Mitchell High School;  Sopie McKee, Yankton High School; Shannon Fanning, Scotland High School; Jacey Anderberg, Yankton High School; MaKenzie Dean, Parker High School; Evan Steers, Miller High School; Timothy Paris, Rapid City Central High School; Mallory Trapp, Milbank High School; Kindra Clark, Garretson High School; Kate Katterhagen, Yankton High School; Kristan Soukup, Wagner Community School; Tori Gaer, Newell High School; Jadyn Woodward, Dupree High School; April Hoffman, Leola High School;  Janae Gustafson, Ethan High School; Kaylee Braun, Ipswich High School; Drew DeMers, Winner High School and Grace Geohring, Selby Area High School.

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Last Modified: 08/07/2017 8:24:16 am MDT

Trip Rewards Youth Leadership; Packs in Co-Op Education and Fun

July 19, 2017

By Toby Kane, for South Dakota Farmers Union

 In this day of social media and the digital world, a lot can happen in a day.

But for three days, July 6-8, 18 juniors and seniors from across South Dakota learned countless real-world things about cooperatives. The Minnesota trip rewarded their completion of three years of leadership activities through South Dakota Farmers Union.

South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director Rachel Haigh-Blume says, "It's important for them to see how cooperatives work in urban environments and get new ideas. Seeing different types of cooperatives first hand really open their minds."

One such cooperative was a housing initiative started by students at the University of Minnesota. The trip also included stops at an organic food cooperative, CHS Inc. and REI consumer cooperative, where students had the opportunity to ask questions, get professional and internship advice, and see each in action.

 Justin Goetz, a 16-year-old junior from Selby, says, "I learned a lot from touring all the different types of co-ops out there. I especially loved learning more about CHS. It really opened my eyes to how much more goes into farming then just what the farmer does."

 "The whole experience has helped me as a leader and how I can really help with the cooperatives in my own community," says junior Bree Weidenbach, a 17-year-old from Canistota. "I can teach others in my school and help them understand the benefits and join up." 

 To emphasize the importance of the trip, Haigh-Blume adds, "When farming in hard times, it's good for the kids to know there are other business models out there, like a cooperative to help keep small towns well as have a little fun." 

 Goetz agrees, "Going to the Twins game and getting behind the scenes was not only an amazing experience but also a learning venture too."  


Youth who attended three-year cooperative education trip to Minneapolis include: back row, left to right: Megan Hanson, Britton; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Abby Dethlefsen, Stickney; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Haley Keizer, Plankinton; Jennifer Hanson, Britton; Caleb Nugteren, Canistota; Hannah Sumption, Frederick; Bree Weidenbach, Canistota; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Nick Snedeker, Woonsocket; Skylar Cox, Frederick; Justin Goetz, Herreid; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; and Joseph Nugteren, Canistota. Front row, left to right: Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Cassidy Keller, Cansitota; and Katherine Oberembt, Ethan.

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Last Modified: 07/19/2017 7:26:23 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union 2017 Junior Advisory Team Our Everyday Heroes

July 17, 2017

by Christina Dexter, SDFU Communications Specialist

The 2017-2018 Junior Advisory Council were elected during Farmers Union State Leadership Camp. From left to right they include: Hannah Sumption, Frederick; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; and Haley Keizer, Plankinton.

What is an everyday hero? This was a question considered by campers during the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Leadership Camp as they elected a six-member Junior Advisory Council (JACs).

 Before ballots were handed out, campers were asked to discuss what being an everyday hero meant to them and how they could be an everyday hero in the lives of others. During the week-long camp, campers had the opportunity to put their thoughts into action, serving as everyday heroes in the lives of dozens of hungry families by assisting Feeding America. As a team, campers helped pack hundreds of pounds of food to be distributed to families in need.

 "This year I really hope that campers take away the importance of being someone's everyday hero," explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director. "You can have a large impact on your neighbors without having to spend a lot of money.  Our time at Feeding America hopefully showed the campers how much you can accomplish together in little time."

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Last Modified: 07/17/2017 10:19:37 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Springer Farm Family

July 17, 2017

by Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 Rock hound and fourth-generation Dixon farmer, Terry Springer, 65, says when he's outdoors he's always on the lookout for a stone that catches his eye.

 "Ever since I was a little boy, I've been walking around with my head down," explains Terry, who over a lifetime has amassed a rare and extensive rock collection.

Terry's collection boasts ancient arrow heads, mammoth bones, fossilized wood, rose quartz, moss rock and other unique geologic specimens.

 Many of the rocks were discovered on the land his great-grandparents and great-great-uncle first farmed in the early 1900s - the land where today, he and his brother, Wayne, 60, continue the family's farming legacy. Together they raise corn, small grains, forage and a cow/calf-to-finish-direct-marketing beef operation, Springer Farms.

"I like living in the country and being my own boss. I enjoy working with cattle and being out working in nature," says Wayne, who at 19 bought the farm neighboring the land his great-great-uncle Hans homesteaded near Gregory. 

When the neighbors were ready to retire, Wayne explains that they asked him if he was interested in the land because they knew he would take care of it.

 "Even in the late '70s investors were buying up farm ground around here. They sold the land to me because, in their own words, "they wanted their farm to remain a working farm and didn't want it to become an abandoned homestead,'" Wayne says.

 He adds that the land he owns was originally purchased by his great-grandfather Carl in 1904, one year after it was homesteaded. 

 Carl lost the farm during the Dirty Thirties.

The brothers can empathize with the challenges their grandfather faced.

To read more and view the photo gallery, click here

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Last Modified: 07/17/2017 9:36:02 am MDT

South Dakota Farmers Union Applauds USDA Decision to Allow for Emergency Haying in Upper Great Plains

July 12, 2017

HURON, S.D. - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture,  Sonny Perdue authorized the release of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota for emergency haying. The announcement follows urgent requests from National Farmers Union (NFU), state Farmers Union divisions, agriculture groups and legislators for the USDA to address severe drought conditions in the Upper Great Plains.

 South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, was among a group of state Farmers Union presidents who sent a letter to Perdue June 20, 2017, urging him to release CRP acres.

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Last Modified: 07/12/2017 11:03:57 am MDT