Posts for April 2019

SD Farmers Union Meets with Leaders in D.C. to Advocate for Family Farmers & Ranchers

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HURON, S.D. – Presidents of South Dakota and North Dakota Farmers Union, met with policy makers in D.C. to discuss commodity transportation costs, crop insurance alternatives and renewable fuels on behalf of family farmers and ranchers.

“Times are tough throughout production agriculture, so we are working to do what we can to make a positive impact on policy for our family farmers and ranchers,” said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

Sombke explained that whether a family’s income relies on crops, livestock or a combination of crops and livestock, 2019 low market prices, combined with extreme weather events have a lot of farmers and ranchers anxious over the sustainability of their business.

“We’re looking at the third season of market prices that make it nearly impossible to bring home profits,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

Sombke was joined by North Dakota Farmers Union President, Mark Watne. During their time in D.C., the leaders met with the Service Transportation Board to discuss concerns related to increased commodity shipping costs.

“Rail transportation is becoming a large expense for farm operations, and farmers have no tools to pass this expense on. We met with the Surface Transportation Board today to get oversight on the monopolistic practices the rail industry is using, now that we only have four major rail companies in the U.S.,” explained Watne, who raises wheat, soybeans, canola and corn.

Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency (RMA) staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for RMA to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“The feedback we received was positive. Those we spoke with appreciated our outside-the-box thinking,” Sombke said.

During their meetings with congressional leaders, Sombke, Watne and Chris Christiaens, Montana Farmers Union Special Projects Director, requested their congressional leaders speak up for the disaster needs of family farmers and ranchers, and request financial assistance.

They also discussed recent Environmental Protection Agency interpretation of RVP rule. “Not only does it have a negative impact on the air we all breath, but it has a negative impact on the family farmers who depend upon ethanol demand for the corn they raise, but it has a huge impact on air quality,” Sombke said. “Higher ethanol blends means cleaner-burning fuel with fewer carcinogens. And, ethanol actually makes gasoline better.”

Looking back on the time spent in D.C., Sombke is encouraged. “I appreciated our meeting with Senator Rounds, he gets it when it comes to ethanol and gasoline blends. In fact, all the meetings were productive networking opportunities – perhaps we are one meeting closer to solutions that will have a positive impact on the family farmers and ranchers we serve.”

To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports family farmers, visit

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New E15 Rule: Read the Fine Print

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by Doug Sombke, President South Dakota Farmers Union & Jim Seurer, CEO, Glacial Lakes Energy

In 2008, the movie, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was released.  It was a bizarre story of a man who, once reaching full maturity, began to age backwards.

An unusual premise, but perhaps not all that farfetched.  Didn’t see the movie?  No problem, if you are in the agriculture business, you’re experiencing it now. Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency and their friends in the oil industry, the U.S. ethanol industry is going backwards. 

It began with EPA granting discriminatory waivers to petroleum refiners excusing them from obeying Renewable Fuels Act laws resulting in decreased ethanol demand to the tune of 2.5 billion gallons.

Many of us, viewed the Renewable Fuels Act as a springboard for growth.  But like Mr. Button, waivers propelled the ethanol industry backwards.  

The recent announcement that EPA would permit 15% ethanol blends year-round was met with great joy by an industry that does not want to read the fine print.  It does in fact, propose to provide year-round exemption from vapor pressure limits for blends of 15% ethanol, but does no more.

The EPA proposal does not extend to higher blends. The anticipated increase in demand, is not enough to make up the loss from waivers.  So why would any industry sign up for a program that guarantees it cannot grow past a certain point? They shouldn’t, at least not the way the proposal is currently written.

And, before you buy the nonsense EPA will spew that this isn’t true, and the industry can apply for a waiver for these higher blends, get your calendar out.  In November of 2009 the EPA was expected to approve E15 blends.  While they ultimately did, 10 years later, the delay effectively stymied industry expansion.

We reject this proposal by EPA, if it will stunt future growth beyond E15. Ethanol should be permitted to be used in any quantity, at any time of year, by anyone who chooses. 

If EPA has concerns, let them do the testing and prove otherwise, as citizens have done in Northeast South Dakota through the E30 Challenge.  How un-American is it for oil companies threatening to sue over EPA removing regulations that result in more consumer choice?

American agriculture is teetering. Trade wars, an EPA colluding with oil companies, and shaky ethanol industry leadership put us in a dangerous position. 

Farmers everywhere should join us and oppose this proposal.

Let the EPA know the ruling needs changes. The comment period is now open, comment here

All ethanol blends should be treated equally. President Trump promised to open the market for ethanol. That should not come with limits, conditions, or restrictions. 

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