News

Alexandria Farmer Shares Her Thoughts on Faith, Family, Farming and Outreach

January 9, 2017

It was the first day of school 2006 and LeAnn's phone rang. Her son, Chet's, preschool teacher was calling.

 "She said, 'LeAnn I think we have a problem. At the end of the day Chet packed up his bag and said, 'Thanks Mrs. Lanners. I had a great day, but I won't be back.'" 

 Taking the conversation in stride, LeAnn (Neugebauer) Moe met Chet as he got off the bus and set about showing the four-year-old the value of education by making connections between school and their family's Alexandria farm.

 "We asked him to count the cows in the pasture, reminding him that in school he will learn how to count. We asked him if he wanted to help the guys spray in the field and then explained that he needed to learn science to do that.

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Last Modified: 01/09/2017 8:52:18 am MST


South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Mehling Farm Family

January 2, 2017

South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s number one industry and help feed the world. This month, we feature the Mehling family who raise crops and cattle southwest of Wessington. 

by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Ask Greg Mehling, 53, what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child and without hesitation he names the miniature thrashing machine his dad built for him.

“The summer Greg was 6 we took him to Prairie Village. He came home needing a thrashing machine, so I worked in the garage every night until Christmas,” recalls Greg’s dad, Roy, 74.

The fourth-generation farmer’s early introduction to farm equipment didn’t stop with toys. By 7, Greg was driving a tractor. “Farming’s kinda in my blood. I enjoy it,” he explains.

After a brief detour to Lake Area Technical Institute and a few job interviews, Greg knew that even though times were tough, farming was the only career for him.

“It was the 80s, so the farming deal wasn’t really good, but after a few job interviews, I knew that farming was the only work I wanted to do,” Greg explains.

To read more, click here 

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Last Modified: 01/02/2017 7:10:28 am MST


South Dakota Farmers Union Awards $500 Scholarships to Three South Dakota Youth

December 28, 2016

During the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre Dec. 8-9, South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awarded three $500 scholarships to young people committed 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.

 The scholarship recipients are Haley Bialas, Dimock; Reece Schulte, Orient; and Samuel Schumacher, Stickney.

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Last Modified: 12/28/2016 8:29:16 am MST


Tracy Chase Recognized with S.D. Farmers Union 2016 Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award

December 28, 2016

When it comes to providing opportunities for McCook county youth, the 2016 recipient of the S.D. Farmers Union Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award, Tracy Chase, doesn't say 'no.' 

 She said 'yes' when the High School Agriculture Education Instructor, Terry Rieckman, asked the science teacher to take on some agriculture education classes. "He said, 'What do you think about us working together?' FFA provides great opportunities for students, so I began teaching Animal Science, Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources classes,'" recalls Chase, who grew up on a McCook County dairy farm.

 Twelve years ago, she also said 'yes' when Farmers Union District 2 President, Jim Wahl, asked if she would serve as the Education Director for McCook County. "You have to provide opportunities for kids and South Dakota Farmers Union does just that," says Tracy, of why she accepted the additional responsibility.

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Last Modified: 12/28/2016 8:13:26 am MST


Rural Youth Recognized with 2016 S.D. Farmers Union Torchbearer Award During S.D. Farmers Union State Convention

December 20, 2016

Rural youth were recognized today for their commitment to community and leadership skills with the Torchbearer Award during an awards banquet held during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre, Dec. 8-9, 2016.

 Torchbearer is the highest level for South Dakota Farmers Union Education Achievement. This achievement showcases the time and dedication campers have given over the years to the education department as well as the communities they have served. A special thanks to their families whom supported this process and ensured campers were able to attend camp and other activities.

 "South Dakota Farmers Union invests in youth starting at a young age to ensure the next generation of leaders in our rural communities. We appreciate these youth and their families who have invested in this program and are dedicated to the traditions and skills the program embeds in the students," said S.D. Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume.

 The 2016 Torchbearers include; Madelyn Kline, Huron, daughter of Neal and Kristin Kline; Jonah Murtha, Parkston, son of Becky and Kevin Murtha; Shaun Snedeker, Woonsocket, son of Mark and Lisa Snedeker; Cole Van Gorp, Stickney, son of Randy and Jan Van Gorp; Abbey Tschetter, Huron, daughter of Lisa Tschetter; Braeden Walton, son of Scott and Lisa Walton, Mitchell and Reece Schulte, son of Mark and Jil Schulte, Orient.

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Last Modified: 12/20/2016 9:46:50 am MST


S.D. Farmers Union President Supports Farmer Fair Practices Rules

December 20, 2016

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke supports today's

 announcement that the Farmer Fair Practices Rules have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

 "These rules are designed to level the playing field for family farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry. These rules give producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices and two proposed rules that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices," Sombke explained. "Across the board these rules are designed to provide fair price protection, but especially for those farmers who raise poultry or swine, which are heavily concentrated."

 He explains that today, 51 percent of all boiler markets and 57 percent of turkey markets are controlled by four processors.

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

 "For too long, family livestock producers and poultry growers have endured a heavily concentrated market with little protection against unfair, anti-competitive practices. We are glad that this important set of rules is finally moving forward," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "While the Farmer Fair Practice Rules do not fix all of the fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries, these rules are certainly an important step in the right direction."

 A provision was included in the 2008 Farm Bill, authorizing USDA to improve GIPSA regulations; however, until recently, lawmakers repeatedly blocked the funding needed for USDA to finalize these protection rules for family farmers.

 "Both producers and consumers benefit when the markets are competitive and the practices and process are transparent. We look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the published rules and providing feedback to ensure the final rules will work for family farmers," Johnson said.

 Moving forward, Sombke said the question will be whether the Trump Administration will follow through and support the Farmer Fair Practice Rules.  

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Last Modified: 12/20/2016 9:28:25 am MST


S.D. Farmers Union Members Make A Wish Come True for Lower Brule Boy

November 30, 2016

South Dakota Farmers Union members donated $5,000 to Make-A-Wish and helped make Toby’s wish to go to Walt Disney World come true.

Toby is 11 and lives with his family in Lower Brule. Toby faces dilated cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening medical condition. He is among 53 other South Dakota youth who had their wishes granted in 2016 thanks to the generosity of South Dakotans, explains Paul Krueger, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota.

“We really believe that wishes are essential for kids with life-threatening medical conditions. Wishes give hope, strength and joy to those children and their families,” Krueger explains.

Like Farmers Union, Make-A-Wish is a grassroots organization which relies heavily upon a volunteer network of nearly 200 and donations from individuals and organizations to keep granting wishes.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2016 3:12:44 pm MST


South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Rocking Z Acres Farm Family

November 21, 2016

 By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 The phrase, “That will never work,” doesn’t slow BJ McNeil down.

 Not when he converted 4,000 acres of his grandpa’s conventionally tilled land to no-till. Not when he was among the first Wessington farmers to plant Roundup Ready soybeans. Not when he decided to plant cover crops.

 If anything, hearing the expression has only motivated the fourth generation farmer.

 “I am confident in my own decisions and what I want to accomplish ­ it’s just my nature,” BJ, 46, explains.

 His aunt and business partner, Jonnie Zvonek, says it’s in his genes. “You have your grandpa’s attitude.  You just don’t quit.”

 BJ’s grandpa, John Wilmer Zvonek, is the reason both Jonnie and BJ farm today.

 When Jonnie was born, she was the third of four daughters and his namesake.

“I was always with dad ­ I was basically his ‘son’ John,” Jonnie recalls.

 After high school Jonnie tried working off the farm. She moved to Sioux Falls and worked for the Argus Leader as a typesetter for nine months.

 “I felt claustrophobic,” she explains. “I always loved getting my hands in the dirt and watching things grow - so, I asked dad if I could come home and farm full-time.”

 Working side-by-side with her dad, Jonnie was involved in every aspect of the farm: planting, harvesting and bookwork.

 In the summer, her sister Sheryl’s son, BJ, would spend much of his time on the farm.

 BJ says although he didn’t know it at the time, it was those summer vacations spent on the farm that instilled in him a passion for working the land. This passion eventually led him to pursue a degree in Agriculture Engineering from Texas A&M.

 “I first tried aerodynamics because I wanted to be a Navy pilot. Then I transferred to business. I had no passion for any of the classes. So, I asked myself, ‘What do I love?’ The answer was, ‘I loved farming,’” BJ explains.

 Shortly after BJ graduated from college, Wilmer passed away. BJ asked Jonnie if he could come back and farm with her. She said yes.

 To read more, click here.

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Last Modified: 11/21/2016 10:13:21 am MST


From Toy Tractors to the Real Deal: S.D. Secretary of Agriculture Shares His Farm Story & Thoughts on Current Crisis

October 26, 2016

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

Like many young farm boys, long before Mike Jaspers was harvesting a crop in the field, he was on his hands and knees, harvesting off the floors in his parents’ home.

“If dad was out harvesting, I was in the basement with my toy combine harvesting,” recalls the fifth-generation Marshall County family farmer, ‘88-89 State FFA President, former legislator and current South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture.

As he reflects on the journey which led him to accept Governor Daugaard’s request to serve as Secretary of Agriculture starting July 5, 2016, Jaspers explains that although his passion for public service was developed in college, his passion for agriculture was nurtured from the start. It started long before he was old enough to drive a tractor.

“I’m a typical kid who grew up on a farm. You live your mom and dad’s business. It’s just part of who we are as South Dakota ag producers. You grow up with it and that passion for agriculture becomes part of who you are,” explains the 1993 South Dakota State University graduate.

Mature enough to remember the ag economy of the late 70s, Jaspers is no stranger to the current challenges facing South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers.

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Last Modified: 10/26/2016 11:10:18 am MDT


Schaefers Siblings Say Growing Up on the Farm Prepared Them to Serve

October 25, 2016


Schaefers siblings – farm kids and soldiers: Sam, Paivi, Josie and Paul. Their youngest brother,  
Jacob, is pictured right. 

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

Growing up actively involved in their family’s fourth-generation South Dakota farm prepared Josie Ries and four of her siblings well for military service.

“There are so many times on the farm or in our small farming community of Polo when we did things bigger than ourselves ­ not just on our family’s farm, but for others in our community,” explains Josie, who joined the Army National Guard as a junior in high school. “Being a soldier is similar. You develop a strong sense of family and community with the people you serve with and you have this awesome sense of doing something bigger than you.”

When she signed up in 1996, Josie was the first of five Schaefers siblings to serve. The second oldest of seven children, Josie said she was inspired by older cousins and neighbors who served, as well as the fact that in their small community of Polo, patriotism is celebrated.

“We always had the best Fourth of July and Memorial Day celebrations,” Josie recalls.

She was only 17, so her parents, Fred and Cheryl Schaefers, had to sign for her.

Her brother, Paul, adds that in Polo, the Legion is one of only a few buildings left in the town. “Our Legion plays a big role in the community; making donations to local ball programs and helping with funerals and celebrations,” explains Paul, 31, who deployed to Iraq in 2006 and now farms full-time. Paul and his wife, Blair, a registered nurse, live in Polo.

Paul was a recent high school graduate when Josie deployed to Iraq in 2003.

He and his other siblings all credit Josie, in part, with inspiring them to serve. “It felt like the right thing to do,” explains Paul, who didn’t wait to be called up, but instead volunteered to deploy in 2006 with an infantry guard unit from Michigan. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. I wanted to do my part.”

By 2012, his brother, Sam, and sister, Paivi Stone, and their youngest brother, Jacob, were also enlisted.

As the youngest of seven, Jacob says even though he was the baby, he wasn’t coddled at home on the farm. “Once they all left I had to do a lot of work on the farm, plus help my mom with her catering business.”

Jacob says the work ethic and ability to stick with a job until it was done that he developed on the family’s crop and livestock farm served him well in his role as a Marine. “When something breaks on the farm, you may not know what is wrong or how to fix it, but you will get it figured out,” Jacob says.

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Last Modified: 10/26/2016 8:35:09 am MDT