Doug Sombke of Groton will serve another two-year term as president of South Dakota Farmers Union. Sombke was re-elected Saturday by delegates at the family farm organization's 98th annual state convention held in Aberdeen. Sombke has been president of the Huron-based statewide organization since 2005. He ran unopposed.
Sen. Billie Sutton and Rep. Justin Cronin are the 2012 recipients of the Outstanding Legislative Leader Award from the South Dakota Farmers Union. The two legislators were presented awards during the family farm organization’s Legislative Day at the Capitol and were honored during the family farm organization’s 98th annual state convention Feb. 15 at Aberdeen. Each year, South Dakota Farmers Union honors two legislators who have shown exemplary work in the previous legislative session on behalf of the state’s family farmers and ranchers.
Rep. Cronin, a business owner from Gettysburg, represents District 23 which is made up of Campbell, Edmunds, Faulk, Hand, McPherson, Potter, Spink and Walworth counties. The second-term Republican is the assistant majority leader in the House for the 2013 session. He is a member of the House Commerce and Energy, Government Operations and Audit and State Affairs committees.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Rep. Cronin on issues that affect the agriculture industry in South Dakota,” S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke said. “He’s an approachable lawmaker that is willing to listen to ideas about how to enhance the lives of his rural constituents.”
Sen. Sutton is a Democrat from Burke. He’s in his second term in the South Dakota Senate serving District 21, which includes Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Gregory and Tripp counties. He currently serves as the assistant minority leader in the Senate and sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Outside of the legislative session he works as a financial consultant and rancher.
“Sen. Sutton is a great advocate for agricultural producers across the state,” Sombke said. “He’s a working rancher and brings a wealth of ag-production knowledge to the Legislature. We look forward to working with him throughout the session on issues important to family farmers and ranchers in South Dakota.
Congress squandered an incredible opportunity to enhance American agriculture while saving taxpayers billions of dollars when lawmakers failed to pass a comprehensive, long-term farm bill last year. That’s according to former South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin who spoke Friday evening at the South Dakota Farmers Union’s 98th annual state convention at Aberdeen.
"The reason we didn't get a multi-year farm bill in the last Congress, five words: John Boeher and Eric Cantor, bottom line," Herseth Sandlin said, referring to Speaker of the House Boehnor and House Majority Leader Cantor. "And it's because they're ideologically opposed to many of the programs that are in that bill. The Senate comes up with a product that saves $23 billion in taxpayer money, passes a bipartisan bill, the House Ag Committee passes a bill and John Boehner won't bring it for a vote."
Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 2004-2011, said she gets asked a lot whether she misses being in Congress. She said she misses the opportunity to serve, but said "the answer is a lot more complicated that that" because of the extreme partisan divide she says has engulfed the nation's capital.
“What’s going on in Washington has gotten to the point where unfortunately the public can’t expect much out of their Congress as an institution given the raw partisan politics that seems to trump any type of common ground that should be advancing smarter public policy,” she said. As I watched the last Congress unfold, recalling and feeling that the most professionally rewarding experience I had when I had the opportunity to serve was to pass a bipartisan, multi-year farm bill, and to see that an opportunity like no other was squandered because of ideology and partisan politics was incredibly disappointing."
“John Boehner had a responsibility as Speaker of the House to bring that bill, whether it was the committee bill or the Senate bill to the floor of the United States House of Representatives to make amendments in order and to let members influence that bill and pass the bill to the benefit of not just everyone in this room and everyone in agriculture but for the entire country that has been supported and sustained by the agriculture sector,” she said.
Herseth Sandlin was a member of the House Agriculture Committee when it passed the 2008 farm bill, and says that legislation is the reason agriculture has seen incredible profitability in recent years and is the reason agriculture was able to weather the economic recession better than other sectors of the economy.
“The ag sector remained strong despite that record drought because of the risk management tools, and the crop insurance, and the safety net that was offered in the 2008 farm bill,” she said. “The reason agriculture was able to weather the economic crisis and slow economic recovery is because of the 2008 farm bill and the predictability of strong policy that was balanced across commodities, conservation, energy, rural development, science, marketing and all of the other titles in the farm bill. I can’t tell you proud I was to represent you at that time, to take your counsel and guidance and to pass a strong bill in a bipartisan way through regular order that served agriculture and America so well,” she said.
“Thankfully (Senate Agriculture Committee) Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has convinced (Senate Majority) Leader (Harry) Reid to make the farm bill in 2013 at top priority and I hope that despite what we’ve seen on sequestration and the budget that the farm bill can experience the same kind of momentum, the same kind of bipartisan support, the same kind of commitment to pass it into law as I expect immigration reform will get in this Congress,” Herseth Sandlin.
Now an attorney and vice president for Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, Herseth Sandlin said her current job keeps her engaged in agriculture because of the company’s commitment to technology and entrance into precision agriculture markets. She discussed the issue of sustainability in agriculture, and using new technologies to work smarter and create a more sustainable future.
“When you look at what we need to do to feed 9 billion people by 2050 we have to do it by continuing to enhance productivity in American agriculture, and we’re doing it. And we need to keep doing it supported by smart, long-term public policy that’s right for American agriculture,” she said. “It’s about incorporating innovative new technologies, and smart, sustainable agricultural practices that use the best science of our land grant universities in partnership with developing countries to make sure we can feed 9 billion people by 2050.”
Herseth Sandlin spoke during the evening session Friday of the South Dakota Farmers Union convention which runs through Saturday in Aberdeen.
An official from the new Northern Beef Packers processing plant in Aberdeen made a short but important statement Friday during the South Dakota Farmers Union state convention: “I would like to start off by saying, we’re open,” said A.J. Munger, who got a large round of applause at the short comment. Munger is the new Director of New Business Development, Pricing and Marketing at Northern Beef Packers. “It’s been a long road. It’s been a rocky road at times, but with a lot of perseverance, and help from the community we’ve been able to open our doors and it’s been a good start.”
After suffering a number of setbacks, Aberdeen-based Northern Beef Packers started harvesting cattle last October. Right now, the plant processes 300 head per day on average. The plant is now owned by Korean and Chinese investors and getting to this point has not been easy, Munger said.
“It’s quite a task building a beef processing plant from the ground up,” Munger said. “One of these plants hasn’t been built in the last 35 years, so it’s been quite the challenge to go out and find the expertise that it takes to get one of these plants built and up and running.”
The plant is still working out the kinks, making sure all of the systems “talk to each other,” Munger said. “We’re getting pretty close, and we should start adding production here in the next few weeks.”
The company is working to expand its market. They’ve started working with high-end distributors in Chicago and New York City, Munger said. They’re still finishing the necessary paperwork, but Munger says Northern Beef Packers could be exporting meat to other countries by the end of March.
“We’ve got some good feedback from our customers who we ship our beef to,” he said.
Munger said they’ve gotten much of the cattle they process from within 20 miles of the plant. As they increase production, Munger said he’s confident that the majority of cattle will come from local sources.
“Our studies have shown that there are enough cattle within 200 miles of the plant to meet all of our needs,” Munger said. And he said it’s quality beef they’re processing. “We didn’t build this plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota, by mistake. We built it right in the middle of prime cattle country, and so far our grading quality has been excellent.”
The plant will also be working with the South Dakota Certified program, selling beef that were born, raised and slaughtered in the state.
The 420,000-square-foot plant is known as a regional packer, more of a niche-market plant as opposed to major packers. “We don’t focus as much on quantity, we want to focus more on quality and producing that quality product,” Munger said.
There are approximately 10 regional packers in the country, Munger said, and the Aberdeen plant is the most northern regional packer in the U.S. Munger says Northern Beef Packers has over 400 employees right now with plans to increase that number to 600 in the short term. Most of the production employees are making anywhere from $12 to $18 per hour starting out for employers. “Those are at or above of industry averages,” Munger said.
They have the capacity to process as many as 1,500 head of cattle per day on one shift. Munger says with some capital improvements it could be possible to move to 1,800 head per day. That’s on one shift. If they would move to two shifts they could double the production.
Munger said they’re focusing not only on quality cuts but on safety, trying to stay out of what becomes a major news story if there is a recall.
“We wanted to make sure that we would have one of the safest plants in the country. Food safety is becoming an increasing issue across the beef industry. It seems like every other month you’re hearing about recalls. So we take great care in making sure that all the bugs stay off the meat,” Munger said. “We’ve put in an industry-leading number of food safety interventions. We also have an individual carcass ID system set up in the plant. What that allows us to do is that at any given time we can track where a carcass is in our system.”
The South Dakota Farmers Union convention runs through Saturday at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center.
The economic prospects of South Dakota agriculture are looking extremely positive as new opportunities for international trade and agricultural processing facilities continue to expand in the state. That’s according to South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Walt Bones who spoke today to members of South Dakota Farmers Union during the family farm organization’s 98th annual convention being held in Aberdeen.
A House committee today voted in favor of putting farmers first in line to receive payments from a grain buyer’s bond if the company goes under. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 8-5 to pass House Bill 1228, a measure introduced in response to the financial collapse of Minnesota-based Anderson Seed Company’s grain facility in Redfield. Five Republicans and three Democrats voted to pass the bill to the House floor. The five nay votes came from Republicans.
The South Dakota House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hear testimony Thursday morning on a bill that would put agricultural producers first in line to receive bond payments if a grain warehouse or grain buyer goes out of business.
Senators Chuck Grassley, Tim Johnson, Mike Enzi and Sherrod Brown Tuesday introduced legislation that would place a hard cap on the farm payments an individual farmer can receive in a year and close long-abused and well-documented loopholes in the farm payment program.
Former South Dakota congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will headline the list of speakers and presenters at the South Dakota Farmers Union’s 98th annual state convention Feb. 15-16, 2013, at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center in Aberdeen.
A plan to create a bipartisan legislative redistricting commission in South Dakota was defeated by a partisan vote Monday in the House State Affairs Committee. House Joint Resolution 1001 would have created a commission made up of citizens who were appointed by legislators to draw legislative district lines. Right now, partisan legislators can draw the lines for their own districts based on population every 10 years, coinciding with the federal census. The majority party is allowed more votes on the redistricting committee than the minority party. This measure would have allowed legislators from each party to appoint the same number of members to the commission.