Supporting the Future of Family Farms & Ranches Through Policy Development

December 13, 2017

When times are tough, family farmers and ranchers have a choice, Taylor Sumption explains. "With everyone struggling in agriculture right now, we can complain or change things."

 Creating positive change together motivated South Dakota Farmers Union members from across the state to take time away from their farms, ranches and other professions to gather in Huron Nov. 30-Dec. 1 for the organization's 2017 State Convention.

 "It's important that we work together to promote what we do," adds Sumption, who farms with his dad and brothers near Frederick.

 Promoting their family's business is the reason Dick Kolousek and his son, Scott and daughter-in-law, Amber, became actively involved in Farmers Union a few years ago.

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Last Modified: 12/13/2017 7:50:17 am MST

SDFU to Senator Rounds: Time for EPA to Do Its Duty

December 11, 2017

SDFU President Doug Sombke today urged Senator Mike Rounds, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, to ensure that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt enforces a law that has been on the books for more than 25 years, but ignored by his Agency.  Sombke was prompted to write by EPW Chairman John Barrosso's recent letterto Pruitt criticizing EPA's failure to comply with certain study requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).  

 Barrosso reminded Pruitt that "EPA cannot ignore the will of Congress and the requirements of the Clean Air Act for 17 years."

 Sombke told Rounds that "EPA's dereliction of duty goes well beyond its failures with the RFS.  It is well past time for EPA to enforce the mandatory requirements of Section 202(l) of the Clean Air Act, the so-called "clean octane" provision."

Millions of urban Americans, especially children, would benefit the most from proper enforcement of the "clean octane" provision, which Congress enacted in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments while it was banning leaded gasoline.  To prevent a repeat of the horrific lead health effects, Congress required EPA to limit "to the greatest achievable extent" the use of benzene-based additives (known as BTEX) which refiners use to increase gasoline octane ratings.  Typical gasoline contains at least 25% BTEX, and tens of billions of gallons are combusted every year.  Last week, the respected Center for Environmental Health released a report on the devastating effects BTEX emissions products can have on the fetus and infants.

 Recently, EPA scientists belatedly admitted what experts have been saying for many years:  gasoline exhaust is the predominant source of the most dangerous urban pollutants, including ultrafine particulates that carry carcinogens through the blood stream to the brain and other organs.  Some of the most potent of these are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which the Surgeon General identified years ago as the most deadly agents in tobacco smoke.  Gasoline PAHs are even more pervasive and lethal than tobacco PAHs, and there is no way for urban residents to escape them because they travel long distances, and penetrate into homes, schools, and cars.

 Automakers have told EPA that they require higher octane gasoline to power more efficient, higher compression engines.  US Department of Energy labs have singled out ethanol's superior octane properties as the preferred way to produce higher octane gasoline.  Ethanol's superior octane rating comes at a lower cost than oil-derived BTEX compounds, so consumers and the economy are also big winners.

 On October 19, 1017, Pruitt told Rounds and other Senators that his "responsibility as Administrator of the EPA is to faithfully administer the laws passed by the U.S. Congress".  Sombke strongly urged Senator Rounds to ensure that EPA ends its 25 years of obstruction, and fulfills its sworn duty to protect the public health and welfare

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Last Modified: 12/11/2017 1:37:55 pm MST

Cheryl Schaefers of Polo Will Attend NFU Women's Conference

December 7, 2017

Cheryl Schaefers, a Polo crop and livestock farmer and owner of Cheryl's Catering, was elected to serve as the South Dakota delegate to the National Farmers Union 2018 Women's Conference held in San Diego, California January 14-18, 2018.

 Women in Leadership is the theme of this year's convention. Women have been leading in agriculture for many years, and NFU hopes to build on this idea throughout the conference.

The conference will prepare attendees and their operations for their own future in many areas, including business planning, succession planning, running for local office, networking, telling their own stories, innovative marketing, and much more.

 NFU hopes to provide attendees with both a network of female producers that they can reach out to throughout the year as well as important tools that will help set their operations up for a future of success.

Cheryl Schaefers, a Polo crop and livestock farmer, and owner of Cheryl's Catering, was elected to serve as the South Dakota delegate to the National Farmers Union 2018 Women's Conference held in San Diego, California January 14-18, 2018.

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Last Modified: 12/07/2017 12:06:46 pm MST

Doug Sombke Reelected to Serve as S.D. Farmers Union President of During 102nd State Convention

December 4, 2017

Doug Sombke was reelected to serve as President of South Dakota Farmers Union during the organization's 102nd State Convention held in Huron Nov. 30-Dec.1, 2017.

 "I love this organization because it gives a voice to family farmers and ranchers," said Sombke who has served as President of the organization since 2005. "I am a farmer. Farming is all I ever wanted to do - it's my passion. I have made it my lifelong goal to work to advance the future of family farmers and ranchers any way I can. I gave up my daily involvement in my family's farm to serve this organization because I want to ensure the next generation of farm and ranch kids have the opportunity to farm and ranch."

 Sombke has served as President of South Dakota Farmers Union since 2005. He is a fourth-generation crop and livestock farmer who continues to remain involved in his family's Conde farm - although since he began serving as SDFU President, his three sons have taken over managing the day-to-day farm operations. His sons also operate value-added enterprises from the farm. He and his wife, Mel, have three grandchildren.

 In his role as President of S.D. Farmers Union, Sombke has served on the board of directors for Farmers Union Industries, an organization which is made up of several businesses - the dividends of which go to help fund Farmers Union organizations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin as well as Farmers Union Enterprise programs and National Farmers Union. In 2017, Doug was named President of this organization.

 As President of South Dakota Farmers Union, Sombke leads the state-wide organization which works to enhance South Dakota's number one industry of agriculture by developing policy to support the family farmers and ranchers who actively grow crops and raise livestock, their rural communities and protect future generations of farmers and ranchers.

 "As a father to three young farmers in their 20s, I have skin in game. Every day, our livelihoods are at risk from regulations, policies or markets," Sombke said. "As the leader of this organization, I will continue to fight each day to ensure that those in control hear the voice of South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers. I am not afraid to be the mouthpiece of our family farmer and rancher members - even when what we have to say is not popular." 

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Last Modified: 12/04/2017 10:30:54 am MST

Lake Preston Farmer Reelected to serve as Vice President of South Dakota Farmers Union

December 4, 2017

Wayne Soren was reelected to serve as Vice President of South Dakota Farmers Union during the organization's 102nd State Convention held in Huron Nov. 30-Dec.1, 2017. Soren has served in this position since 2010.

 "Throughout the years I have been actively involved in Farmers Union, I am constantly impressed with the grassroots' changes we are able to make in our state to improve the lives and livelihoods of South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers," said Soren, a third-generation farmer who raises corn, soybeans, wheat and operates a cow/calf herd near Lake Preston. "I have seen the power, sharing our story, has on impacting positive change for family farmers and ranchers."

 Soren became involved in Farmers Union nearly three decades ago when former SDFU President, Dallas Tonsager invited him to a meeting where the National Farmers Union president spoke. A few months later, Tonsager invited Soren to another meeting where he got to hear another National Farmers Union President speak.

 Impressed by the leadership of Farmers Union, Soren decided this was an organization he needed to join.

 Jumping in with both feet, Soren began carving out time in his busy farm and fathering schedule for County meetings, Pierre Legislative Days and D.C. Fly-Ins (Soren's wife, Vicki, works fulltime off the farm, so when their boys, Jason and  Ryan were growing up, the boys spent time with Soren helping him on the farm in lieu of daycare).

 It wasn't long before his active membership became active leadership. First as a County Counselor officer, then as District  3 President and in 2010, Soren was elected to serve as the South Dakota Farmers Union Vice President. 

 "In my leadership role, I have shared this message with our members because waiting for positive change can get frustrating. However, we must never give up. I also believe that positive change  requires some give and take. To be an effective leader I believe it is important to figure out how to strike a balance with political leaders to reach a positive outcome," Soren said.

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Last Modified: 12/04/2017 10:29:52 am MST

South Dakota Family Farmers & Ranchers Discuss Rural Healthcare, E30 and Policy Development During 2017 S.D. Farmers Union Convention

December 4, 2017

South Dakota Farmers Union 2017 State Convention brought many family farmers and ranchers to Huron today to develop policy, discuss rural healthcare and many other issues impacting those who help feed and fuel our state, nation and world.

 "This is a grassroots organization who has been serving South Dakota's family farmers, ranchers and their communities for more than a century. Perhaps policy development is the most important item accomplished here," says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

 Sombke adds that the annual state convention provides a great opportunity to bring in experts to discuss topics impacting South Dakota's farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

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Last Modified: 12/04/2017 10:27:45 am MST

Rural Communities Get Creative To Provide Childcare

November 27, 2017

by Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 Since their son, Tate was born four years ago, finding quality, stable childcare has been an on-going challenge for Loni and Travis Brown.

 When Tate was a newborn, Loni, who had been working as a Building Specialist at Cammack Ranch Supply in Union Center, quit her job and began working in the infant room at a Sturgis daycare center so she could remain his primary caregiver.

Soon however, Loni knew she needed to find a job that provided the family with healthcare benefits. The daycare didn't offer benefits and benefits through Travis' employer, at that time, were too expensive.

 When she began working for Black Hills Credit Union, Loni found an in-home daycare for Tate. "In-home care just seemed like an overall better environment for him. It was more personal and hands-on. It was also a more calm environment because there were only 10 kids versus the center's 70," she explains.

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Last Modified: 11/27/2017 8:33:56 am MST

Farmers Union Feeds Farmers During 2017 Harvest

November 20, 2017

by Christina Dexter, Legislative Specialist

Like many farmers, a typical harvest day for John Voss consists of long hours spent in the combine focusing on one goal - getting his crops out before the weather turns and makes it impossible.

 "Harvest days are hectic," says the third generation Andover farmer. "We don't have much spare time during harvest because we are working with small windows in the weather. I spend most of my days out in the combine, from early morning to late in the evening."

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Last Modified: 11/20/2017 8:34:33 am MST

Jaclynn Knutson of Centerville Receives NFU Foundation Scholarship for Next Generation Agricultural Leaders

November 20, 2017

Farmers Union member and South Dakota State University student Jaclynn Knutson, Centerville, was one of three college students to receive the National Farmers Union Foundation Stanley Moore Scholarship award.

 "I congratulate our three scholarship recipients for their dedication to their education, and thank them for their commitment to the Farmers Union organization," says National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. "We had an exceptional pool of candidates apply for the scholarship programs this year, and I am proud to see the enthusiasm for Farmers Union from the next generation of leaders in American agriculture."

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Last Modified: 11/20/2017 8:23:57 am MST

Farmers & Ranchers will Discuss E30 & Rural Healthcare During 2017 S.D. Farmers Union Convention

November 20, 2017

Members are encouraged to attend the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention held in Huron at the Crossroads Hotel Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

 Experts will be discussing E30 and rural healthcare during the two-day convention where SDFU members will vote on policy that will be the focus of the 2018 legislative session in Pierre.

 "When it comes to policy that impacts family farmers and ranchers, there are many changes coming down the pike - in our state and nation. It's our hope that when members leave this convention they have a better understanding of the issues and what we can do to advocate for policy we need," says Doug Sombke, SDFU President.

 Along with policy development, industry experts will discuss pressing issues of healthcare, crop insurance and the future of E30.

 Alana Knudson, Public Health Program Area Director at the University of Chicago NORC, will update members on healthcare and its impact on farming and ranching families

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Last Modified: 11/20/2017 8:19:45 am MST

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