Posts for March 2018

S.D. Farmers Union Supports Rural Energy for America Program with Letter of Support

March 27, 2018

National, regional and state associations and groups, including South Dakota Farmers Union, have signed on to a letter urging Agriculture Committee leaders and members in both the House and Senate to support the inclusion of the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program with increased or maintained mandatory funding in the next Farm Bill.
S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke issued the following statement in support of the program:
“REAP has made tremendous impact on South Dakota family farmers, ranchers, small business owners and their ability to produce clean energy, cutting energy cost and stimulating development in previously struggling rural communities. Rural economies are being faced with a multiyear slump in the farm economy, so it is vital optional revenue streams are available to increase farm incomes. Increasing or maintaining REAP helps ensure that the programs benefits will be available to more rural South Dakotan in years to come.”

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Last Modified: 03/27/2018 10:11:35 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Welcomes Rocky Forman to Serve as Member Services Coordinator

March 26, 2018

Rocky Forman recently joined South Dakota Farmers Union as the Member Services Coordinator.

 "We are excited to have Rocky join our team. He has enthusiasm for service to South Dakota's agriculture producers and agribusiness people," says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

 As Member Services Coordinator, Forman will organize the S.D. Farmers Union Young Producers Program, facilitate Farm Safety Trailer programming and engage in other outreach programming for members and non-members throughout South Dakota.

 "I enjoy helping people and look forward to sharing the South Dakota Farmers Union message of farm safety, as well as other agriculture-based programming with agriculture producers, their families and individuals throughout South Dakota," Forman says.

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Last Modified: 03/26/2018 9:23:16 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Provides Professional Leadership Training Through REAL Program

March 26, 2018

For Angela Hawkinson, the investment her community of Britton, South Dakota, made in her, has had a large impact on her life. She credits Britton with helping shape her into the person that she is today.

 "I was raised in my community and now I live in it and have built my life here," explains Hawkinson, who works in human resources and bookkeeping for Full Circle Ag. "This community has given me so much and I'm proud of this place. Now I feel like it's my turn to give back to it and invest in its future like it did in mine."

 To help her invest in her rural community, Hawkinson is furthering her leadership skills through the professional development program, Rural Economic and Leadership Development (REAL) program. Developed by South Dakota Farmers Union, REAL is designed to encourage and support rural professionals, like Hawkinson, by providing them with professional and leadership development.

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Last Modified: 03/26/2018 9:10:57 am MDT

Farmers Union Celebrates the Feickert Farm Family of Aberdeen

March 19, 2018

By Lura Roti for SDFU

 The second oldest of seven, Dennis Feickert grew up on a traditional 1950s South Dakota farm. His dad, Elvin, and mom, Christina, raised pigs, chickens, a cow/calf herd, a 30-cow dairy herd and corn, oats, wheat and hay.

 It was on this 1,200-acre McPherson County farm that a strong desire to work on the land and care for livestock was instilled in Dennis.

 "My passion and my love has always, absolutely been with the cattle and the land and the machinery. That is where my entire energies have always been focused," he says.

 Although the only career Dennis ever wanted was to be a farmer, when he graduated from high school, the family farm was too small. His dad was young yet and had a large family to support. "So, I moved to Aberdeen and began working for Dakota Farmer magazine and hated it - absolutely despised it," Dennis says.

 To emphasize how farmsick he was, Dennis tells this story. "It was summer. I would lay in our small apartment with the windows open to catch a breeze and I would smell alfalfa and I would go wacko, absolutely wacko."

 Because he couldn't change circumstances and he had a young family to support, instead of farming fulltime, at 21, Dennis joined the Aberdeen City Fire Department and built up a cow/calf herd as time, income and opportunity allowed.

 "I bought about 20 heifers at the sale barn and kept them at the kids' grandpa's farm. Then, we bought some 4-H heifers for the kids to show in 4-H and I rented some land and took a guy's cows on shares and kept a few of those heifer calves," explains Dennis, of the slow-but-sure way he built up the cow/calf herd to today's 180-head that he runs together with his son, Jason and daughter, Rebecca's cows.

 To have enough pasture and hay ground, Dennis rented or purchased small pieces of land close to Aberdeen. Then, in the mid-'70s, 40 acres of land just five miles from Aberdeen came up for sale. Dennis sold a duplex he had renovated and built a house and barn. He finally had his farm.

To read more, click here 

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Last Modified: 03/19/2018 10:07:39 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Foundation Supports Future of Agriculture with Scholarship

March 19, 2018

By Lura Roti for SDFU

 Improving the entire rural landscape through research that enables farmers to take a holistic approach to field management is the bold vision that drives Mike Bredeson, a South Dakota State University doctorate student and the recipient of the $2,500 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship.

 "Our rural communities are struggling for many reasons. Agriculture is the foundation of rural communities. If we can bolster our agricultural producers by  helping them to diversify their operations, conserve natural resources and improve profitability, the result will be invigorated farm economies," explains Bredeson, a south-central Minnesota farmboy who is currently pursuing a doctorate in agroecology in the Natural Resource Management Department at SDSU.

 Supporting students, like Bredeson, is the reason South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awards a graduate school scholarship each year.

 "Education is a focus of S.D. Farmers Union Foundation because it is key to the sustainability of agriculture and rural communities," says Doug Sombke, SDFU President and a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

 A full-time student, married to a full-time student, Bredeson said the scholarship means a lot to him and his family.

"t's enormous. Although I do receive a stipend for my research work, it's small. My wife is also a graduate student, so this scholarship means a lot to us as we pursue our dreams," he says.

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Last Modified: 03/19/2018 8:54:36 am MDT

South Dakota's Matt Birgen Recognized for Years of Service to Agriculture with National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award

March 8, 2018

Beresford farmer, Matt Birgen was recognized for his leadership and service to agriculture with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award during the organization's 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018.

The National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award recognizes members for their outstanding leadership and service to family agriculture and to Farmers Union over the course of their lifetimes.

 "Matt is unselfish and very forward focused. He is always looking out for the common good," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "His vision and leadership on the Farmers Union Industries board is exactly why we are in a position to continue to support the future of South Dakota's family farmers."

 Birgen served on the board of directors for Farmers Union Industries for nearly two decades. The organization owns several businesses, the dividends of which go to help fund South Dakota Farmers Union along with four other Farmers Union organizations as well as National Farmers Union programming. Today, Birgen's son, Larry sits on the Farmers Union Industries Board.

 "Dad's influence encouraged me to give back and serve agriculture - he influenced all of us kids to get involved," said Larry, one of seven children Matt and his wife Maureen raised on their diversified family farm. "Being involved was just natural for dad. It is just something he does."

 At 88, Matt remains involved with the family farm, together with Larry and his nephew, Steve.

 Along with Farmers Union Industries, throughout his lifetime, Matt, a Korean War Veteran, has remained actively involved in his local VFW, serving in many leadership positions over the last six decades; he served on the Clay County Farmers Union board of directors for more than 50 years; served on the North Central American Milk Producers Inc. board; served as President of the Clay County Board of Mutual Insurance Association board; served on the board of directors of Trucktown Cooperative; and has made several trips to Washington D.C. to advocate for agriculture.

 "Our voice needs to be heard. Whether it's as a veteran or a farmer, I believe that if I don't participate, who will? My dad belonged to Farmers Union, he served on the board of directors, that is why I got involved," explained Matt.

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Last Modified: 03/08/2018 7:56:19 am MST

South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers Travel to Kansas City for National Farmers Union Convention

March 8, 2018

More than 30 South Dakota family farmers and ranchers traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to develop policy advocating for agriculture during the organization's 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018.

"As a grassroots organization, Farmers Union truly gives family farmers and ranchers a voice," said Doug Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer and President of S.D. Farmers Union.

 He explains that the policy South Dakota delegates bring to the national convention was developed at the county level then voted on during South Dakota Farmers Union state convention. "What's voted on at the national level will be the policy our organization lobbies for in D.C.," Sombke explained.

Advocating for the future of South Dakota's number one industry is the reason Union Center rancher, Tammy Basel and her husband, Dallis left feeding and lambing chores in the hands of their adult sons and made the 12-hour drive.

 "Times are tough across ranch and farm country, we need to make our voice heard in D.C. and work together to make positive change here at home," said Basel who raises sheep and cattle.

 Other South Dakotans to attend the convention include: Doug Sombke, SDFU President, Conde; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist, Huron; Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director, Huron; Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President, Lake Preston; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Larry Birgen, Sioux Falls; Matt Birgen, Beresford; Hannah Sumption, Aberdeen; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Jennifer Hanson, Britton; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota; Bill Chase, Wolsey; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Becky Martinmaas, Orient; Gail Temple, Clark; Lisa Snedecker, Woonsocket; Mark Snedecker, Woonsocket; Lynn Frey, Lemmon; Rocky Forman, Huron; Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Taylor Sumption, Frederick; Marissa Holinka, Watertown and Lorrie Hanson, Britton.

 In addition to policy debates, South Dakota members celebrated Beresford farmer, Matt Birgen, 88, recognized for his leadership and service to agriculture with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award.

 To learn more about the National Farmers Union Convention visit

More than 30 South Dakota family farmers and ranchers traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to develop policy advocating for agriculture during the organization's 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018.

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Last Modified: 03/08/2018 7:52:12 am MST

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