Posts for May 2019

Create Fair Markets Here at Home Says S.D. Farmers Union President

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In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.

“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.

Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.

“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”

And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, 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 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 Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.

In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.

“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.

Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.

“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”

And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, 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 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 Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.

Read Roger Johnson’s letter here:
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:

"Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.
“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.

“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union, visit www.sdfu.org.
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:

"Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.

“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.

“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union, visit www.sdfu.org.

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S.D. Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer Receives National Award

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South Dakota Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer received the Best of National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Exhibits award during the 2019 NAMA Convention.

“Farm safety education has long been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union summer camp programming. Because of the mobile nature of the Safety Trailer we are now able to reach more youth, in more communities with farm safety education year-round,” explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union, one of South Dakota’s largest farm and ranch organizations.

When designing the 24-foot-long learning space, South Dakota Farmers Union invested in developing creative ways to provide hands-on safety training for high-risk farm activities. They teamed up with Insight Marketing Design to bring their ideas to life.

“It was a challenge to bring all these safety features to life in an engaging way. We loved working with the Farmers Union team to do this,” says Candy Van Dam, partner and chief strategy officer for Insight Marketing Design.

Designed for active learning, the Safety Trailer features an ATV simulator, miniature farm, grain ladder and safety harnesses and more.

“Judged against similar projects, the SDFU Safety Trailer won because of its well thought out strategy to reach rural youth and farm and ranch kids with safety information regarding some of the most dangerous things that can happen on a farm or ranch,” Van Dam says.

To date, more than 7,000 South Dakota youth have engaged with the Safety Trailer.

“Kids learn best by doing. So, we made sure the Safety Trailer invites them to engage in learning about farm safety,” says Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator.

Traveling to communities throughout South Dakota, Forman coordinates with 4-H leaders, FFA chapters, schools and other youth-based community groups to reach as many South Dakota youth as possible.

“Youth are our future, it is an honor when a national organization recognizes the work Farmers Union does to support South Dakota’s youth,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President. “And, whether they live on a farm or not, because agriculture is our state’s number one industry, there is a good chance they will visit a farm at some point, and they need to understand the dangers associated with farm machinery or ATVs.”

In addition to the Farm Safety Trailer, South Dakota Farmers Union also hosts an annual Farm Safety Quiz Bowl each year during the South Dakota State Fair, where FFA members put their farm safety knowledge to the test, competing for the championship title.

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union youth programming, visit www.sdfu.org.

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De Smet Farmers Represent South Dakota during 2019 Farmers Union Enterprises Couples Leadership Program

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De Smet farmers, Darcie and Rob Lee with their
children, 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old
Rosene. 

As De Smet farmers and young parents who also work off the farm fulltime, Rob and Darcie Lee say it’s not easy to make time for leadership development, but it’s important to their future, so they are making it a priority. The couple will represent South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) as members of the 2019 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.

“We can always come up with reasons not to do things. But we accepted the fact that there will never be a good time to give up five weekends, so we prioritized this and we’re going to make it work because it is worth it,” Rob explains.

And, the couple is fortunate to have grandparents living nearby to help care for 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old Rosene.

The Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program was developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training. Each year, one couple from each of the five state Farmers Union organizations which make up Farmers Union Enterprise, are selected to participate.

Throughout the 2019-2020 year, the Lees will attend five seminars. They will join with farm or ranch couples from North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“We are both excited about the networking opportunity to get to know other farm and ranch couples,” says Darcie, who is a nurse, working at Horizon Health Care Clinic in De Smet.

“There is value in being around like-minded individuals who you can bounce ideas off one another, and look at things from a different perspective,” says Rob, who along with raising crops, works as a crop insurance adjustor for Precision Risk Management. “We share the same interests and we are working toward the same goal, albeit on different farms – making a living from the farm and keeping it going for the next generation.”

Preserving the family farm for the next generation is a legacy Rob inherited from his dad, Roger. “My dad brought us up telling us, ‘don’t ever sell the farm.’ And, he has worked to pay down the land so that it’s a bit easier on me and my siblings,” Rob explains. “I catch myself thinking this same way and trying to figure out ways to pay off the land so that when Everett is old enough to farm, it’s easy going for him.”

Roger, who has been actively involved in SDFU for decades, introduced Rob to Farmers Union. Rob helped lobby Congressional leaders on behalf of South Dakota agriculture during the 2018 D.C. Fly-In and then took the policy advocacy skills he gained in D.C. and put them to work during SDFU Legislative Day in Pierre.

In addition to gaining leadership and advocacy skills to benefit their farming heritage, Rob and Darcie also enjoy the lifestyle they have living and working on their family farm. They value raising their children on the farm.

“I enjoyed my life growing up on the farm, I could just wander, and my parents knew I was OK. It’s nice to give our kids that kind of lifestyle too,” Darcie explains. “I enjoy seeing the world through our kids’ eyes. Everett gets so excited for the garden. He eats whatever we raise because we grew it in the garden.”

Recently, the couple diversified their farm when they purchased a small herd of alpaca. They plan to raise them for their fiber and provide Everett and Rosene with the opportunity to raise livestock.

Throughout their year involvement in Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program, the Lees will provide members with Union Farmer updates.

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Today is the Day for Yes

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De Smet farmers, Darcie and Rob Lee with their children, 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old
Rosene. 
By Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director

“Yes” is a powerful word. And, like De Smet farmer, Rob Lee says, there is no real good time to says “yes.” But the benefits often outweigh the obstacles when it comes to making time for a good cause or purpose you believe in.

In Rob’s case, it is dedicating five weekends, together with his wife, Darcie, to further develop their leadership and advocacy skills as they represent South Dakota as members of the 2019 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.

“We can always come up with reasons not to do things. But we accepted the fact that there will never be a good time to give up five weekends, so we prioritized this and we’re going to make it work because it is worth it,” Rob explains about the program developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training.

When we ask members of South Dakota Farmers Union why they invest $50 a year and their time participating in policy development at the county and state level or attending Legislative Day or the D.C. Fly-In – the most frequent response we receive is, “as farmers and ranchers, we need a voice, and SDFU gives us this voice.”

And, the state SDFU staff and board of directors work hard to make your voice heard – here in South Dakota as well as in D.C. But, we need your input. Share your thoughts and help us develop policy for 2020 by attending the State Policy Meeting, held in Huron, July 24 at the Crossroads Convention Center (100 4th St SW).

Another great opportunity to share is during the Young Producers Event, held July 19-20 in Oacoma – if you’re a member it’s free and if you’re not, it’s only $50 and that includes a year membership!

Want to learn more, give me a call, 605-352-6763 ext: 114 or e-mail: Karla@SDFU.org.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Freeman Farm Family

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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 No. 1 industry and help feed the world. This month we highlight Mike Miller and Michelle Friesen. The couple have farmed together near Freeman since they married in 1996. They raise corn, soybeans, a cow/calf herd and feeder operation.

by Lura Roti for SDFU

Standing in their pasture, surrounded by cows with their new calves, Michelle Friesen points to a shelterbelt off to the southwest. “My mother grew up on a farm over there, about a year after my parents were married, my grandparents bought this place for my parents and they moved here,” explains the fourth-generation Freeman farmer.

Quick to point out that although she grew up on the farm and spends five days each week actively involved, farming is actually her husband, Mike Miller’s passion. Music is hers.

“My mother says that from 2-years-old on, I begged for a piano,” says Friesen, who is a soprano in the Sioux Falls Symphony Chorus and owns a piano studio, teaching 20 students each week. “I love music. It’s all around us. It’s everywhere you go.”

Before the couple married, she was living in Kansas teaching music and worked as the pianist for a junior college choir and Miller was farming fulltime. She knew marrying him meant she would return to farming, but she also knew he would support her in pursuing music and performing.

“Farming is his passion and this farm is more than what he can do on his own. So, as long as it works for me to do music and perform, I am available to help with farm work three-fourths time,” Friesen says.

Together, the couple raise corn, soybeans, a cow/calf herd and feeder operation. They lease some farmland and pasture from Michelle’s parents, Maureen (Hofer) and Marlyn Friesen, who retired in 2013.

Like Friesen said, farming is Miller’s passion. As a little boy, he remembers making the 50-mile drive from Sioux Falls to his grandparents’ Freeman farm each Saturday so his dad, Max, could help on the family’s farm and farm 80 acres he owned. After his grandpa, Edward Miller, passed away, his family moved to the farm fulltime.

“I always knew I wanted to be a farmer,” Miller explains.

“The family tells a story that one morning they got up and couldn’t find Mike. He was already on the tractor,” Friesen adds.

A while after the story took place, his family suffered a tremendous loss, when his dad was killed in a farm accident.

About that time, Miller began working for a local dairyman, Steve Friesen. “I worked for him all through high school and college. Before I even graduated from high school, he said, ‘you let me know if you want to farm, and I will help you get started,’” Miller recalls.

After college, he took over the lease on a quarter of land his mom, Marlyce, owned and began farming. Steve loaned him equipment and gave him advice. “I couldn’t have gotten into farming without Steve’s help,” Miller says.

“Someday, we’d like to do the same for a young farmer,” Friesen adds.

Conventional crop farmers, the couple implements outside-the-box thinking when it comes to managing their cow/calf herd.

“Efficiencies are the name of the game,” Miller says. “We calve half the herd in the spring and the other half in the fall because I have enough feedlot space for 120 head, but we calve more than 200 head. This way I don’t have to invest in larger facilities.”

Although it’s tough to juggle calving in the spring and fall during planting and harvest, typically, the weather cooperates. However, this spring, due to extreme moisture, Miller says planting is postponed, so they will have most of the calving done before planting begins.

They sell the feeder calves in January and May at auction markets in Worthing or Yankton.

“It’s good to be diversified so we aren’t tied to one commodity, and when that commodity is at a low, then you’re stuck. But, when you have some diversification, the highs in other areas can keep you going,” she says.

Miller uses forward contracting to market their corn and soybeans. “I don’t have to hit a home run, but I have to get on base. My object is not to hit the high of the market, but to avoid the low,” he explains.

Closely connected to their hometown and school, Freeman Academy, they are actively involved in their community. Together, the couple donates their time and equipment to farm a quarter of land that belongs to Freeman Academy. The money raised at harvest helps fund the local Christian school.

They serve as two of 250 Schmeckfest volunteers. Since 1959, Schmeckfest has been an annual festival/fundraiser for Freeman Academy, which serves kindergarten through high school. Running two weekends each spring, the event includes meals and a community play. This year, Friesen was the director of the musical, “The Boyfriend,” a 1920s-era romantic comedy.

“Growing up here I had a lot of people who did a lot for me. I believe in paying it forward and while I’m on this earth I want to be invested in the people who are on it,” she explains.

For more than 17 years, Miller has served on the board of Country Pride Cooperative, he is on the board of the South Dakota Cooperative Association and in 2018, he was elected to serve on the SDFU Board of Directors, representing District 1.

“The more I became involved, starting with our local cooperative, and the more I learned about agriculture in South Dakota, it made me realize, we need to speak up for ourselves,” he says. “We are only 2 percent of the population. Another reason to get involved in Farmers Union, because Farmers Union gives us a voice.”

To view more photos of life on Mike and Michelle's farm, visit www.sdfu.org.

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Celebrate Farm and Ranch Moms This Mothers Day

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As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother’s Day, South Dakota Farmers Union would like to celebrate the many women who support the state’s No. 1 industry – farm and ranch moms! By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union
Danni Beer 
“I think raising kids on the ranch provides them with a great work ethic. It teaches them so many life skills – you learn so much here. And, they get to grow up see­ing their mom and dad working together. A lot of kids don’t get to see that – for better or worse, our kids see everything.”
— Danni Beer, Keldron, rancher & mother of four


Courtesy photo
Danni Beer Family: Back: Sheldon & Bobbi Froelich, Danni, Mike, Bailie Beer, Carter Honeyman, Bo Beer Front: Blaze Beer, Dogs: Bear & Truman. 

The only constant is change. And, for Keldron rancher, Danni Beer, that’s a good thing.

“Everything is constantly changing. If your operation isn’t changing with the times, or your family isn’t moving forward, something’s wrong,” explains Beer, 48. “I want to make sure the cattle industry stays progressive, not regressive or reactive. I want the same for my family.”

Beer, together with her husband, Mike, and oldest son, Bo, raise cattle and crops on the family’s ranch 20 miles southeast of Lemmon. Growing up on a ranch just across the North Dakota line, Beer always enjoyed ranch work. She knew she wanted to remain in the agriculture industry and pursued an agriculture education degree at South Dakota State University. She also knew she wanted to raise her family on a ranch.

“I think raising kids on the ranch provides them with a great work ethic. It teaches them so many life skills – you learn so much here. And, they get to grow up seeing their mom and dad working together. A lot of kids don’t get to see that – for better or worse, our kids see everything,” says Beer, of their four children Bobbi Froelich, 26; Bo,25; Bailie, 22, and Blaze, 9.

Working on the ranch fulltime, other than a few brief years here and there, Beer says she has enjoyed watching their children learn and grow.

“I have always enjoyed watching them learn new things. And, there are sometimes when the kids teach us more than we teach them. It happens nearly every day with technology,” Beer says. “There are times when I watch my daughter, Bailie, do things on the ranch, and she does things the way I would do them. It’s like having someone who thinks a lot like you do.”

Reflecting on her parenting skills, Beer says she learned a lot from her own mother, Gloria Maher. “She is the perfect mom. She put her kids first in everything. She supported my dad and us kids in everything we did.”

Beer worked to do the same. “Sometimes you just have to drop everything and get them to their activity. And, sometimes they have to learn you can’t do everything. You have to say, ‘no’ to some things,” she says.

In addition to ranch work and children, Beer also gives of her time to the cattle industry. She helped found the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and served as its president 2014-2016. She remains active in the organization as a board member. “Getting involved in the agriculture industry off the farm or ranch is something you need to do to help direct the future,” she says.

Discussing the future, she says as a mom, she’s enjoyed every stage of her children’s lives. “When the kids were little, helping them with things and now that some are adults, interacting with them as adults.”
Janet Kolousek
“I always thought it would be wonderful to raise
the kids in the country because I felt it taught them
about nature and responsibility.”
— Janet Kolousek, Wessington Springs, farm wife and mother of three

Courtesy photo
Janet Kolousek family: Back row: Amber and Scott (son), daughter Laura, daughter Leah and her husband Jared Richter. Middle: Ella, Abby, Jacob (now deceased), Isaac (Scott’s kids); Shea and Caleb (Leah’s kids). Front: Ed and Judy Carter (Janet’s brother), Janet’s mom Goldie Carter, Janet and Dick Kolousek.
Even before she married a Wessington Springs crop and cattle farmer, Janet (Carter) Kolousek knew when she became a mother, she wanted to raise her children in the country.

“I always thought it would be wonderful to raise the kids in the country because I felt it taught them about nature and responsibility,” explains Kolousek, 67, who grew up on a diversified farm. “I have always enjoyed the wide open spaces and loved going out and hearing birdsong and seeing wildlife, being able to see the stars and moon at night. I just love the land. I love nature. I love creation. And, it’s easy to enjoy all that when you’re in the country.”

Together with her husband, Dick, she did get to raise their three children, Scott, Laura and Leah, in the country, on his family’s Wessington Springs diversified crop and livestock farm.

But, because the family needed health insurance, she used her education as a medical transcriptionist coder and worked fulltime off the farm at a local medical clinic, first in insurance, then as an administrative assistant and, eventually working her way up to serving as office manager for three clinics.

Reflecting on the busy years as a working mom, she doesn’t know exactly how she juggled it all. “Just like every other working mom, I just learned how to get everything done and keep up with the kids’ activities and job responsibilities.”

When the kids were too young to spend time on the farm without close supervision, Dick’s mom, Ione, watched them. “This helped immensely. I knew they were with family. I knew my husband was within a few miles if anything happened and he was needed. The kids got to help grandma with her garden, and with the chicken chores. They learned all kinds of things from Grandma and Grandpa, and that was great for them and for us.”

Semi-retired, today, Kolousek gets to spend a lot of time with grandchildren. Scott farms with Dick, and he and his wife, Amber, live just a half mile away.

“One of the best things about a family farming operation is that the people you work with have the same goals and dreams, and we all love and trust each other,” Kolousek says.

Two of her grandchildren do live in Rapid City, but when they visit, she makes time for all the cousins to play and work together. “I read somewhere that grandma’s is where cousins become friends.

“I think it is a real blessing. I know there are a lot of grandparents whose kids live so far away that they don’t get that quality time together with the grandkids to form that bond between grandparents and grandchildren,” she says.

Reflecting on her parenting years, she relied upon her parents’ example, advice from friends and her faith. “Prayer and faith were the main thing – and talking with other moms, asking how they dealt with this or that.”

Growing up, Kolousek’s mom made sure she and her siblings never missed church. As an eighth-grader, she began to play piano for her church, a tradition she continues today, playing piano for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

“Mom really taught us that you need to give of your time and talents – use the gifts God has given you for His glory.”

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South Dakota Farmers Union Encourages You to Read New Report Documenting Connection Between Toxic Fuel Additives, Vehicle Emissions and Human Health Threats

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The Clean Fuels Development Coalition released a report this week (May 7, 2019) indicating that the fuel we use in our vehicles may actually be killing us. South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President, Doug Sombke encourages South Dakotans to read the report and respond by fueling up with E30.

“E30 not only supports the state’s farmers through supporting the ethanol industry, but it replaces the harmful additives, used in gasoline, that this report indicates are cancer-causing,” explains Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer, who in addition to serving as President of SDFU also serves as President of Farmers Union Enterprises, a member of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition.

The report calls emissions from consumer gasoline one of the biggest health threats facing the American public. The report links a wide range of respiratory and even neurological diseases to toxic carcinogenic compounds refiners use to increase octane in gasoline.

“This research makes it clear that mobile source emissions are out of control—literally,” Sombke said. “Current EPA programs and models are faulty and fail to recognize the impacts of real-world fuels. If we did not learn anything from Dieselgate (the Volkswagen emissions scandal), when computers told us all is well when in reality, we were polluting the air, then shame on us because the same thing is happening with gasoline.”

The new Fact Book entitled What’s in Our Gasoline Is Killing Us:  Mobile Source Air Toxics and The Threat to Public Health is the result of research and review of hundreds of studies and medical and technical reports.  The Fact Book was produced by the Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC), in cooperation with the Urban Air Initiative.

The Fact Book documents the alarming rise in air pollution and the direct correlation to increasing concentrations of benzene and other toxic compounds in gasoline that have replaced lead. These compounds have been strongly linked to health issues such as cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, asthma, premature birth, low birth weights and even autism.

“Light duty vehicle exhaust emissions are the predominant source of hazardous air pollutants that represent an exposure risk to urban residents and anyone living near a major roadway,” said David VanderGriend, president of the Urban Air Initiative.   “These lethal pollutants can be directly traced to the 25-30% of gasoline additives that petroleum refiners use to increase octane.”

The primary carcinogen in gasoline is benzene, part of the family of toxics termed as “aromatics”.  Benzene is classified as a known carcinogen.  The American Petroleum Institute as long ago as 1948 testified before Congress that there was no safe threshold for benzene.  The other aromatic compounds in gasoline are toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene are suspected carcinogens.  This combination of aromatics is referred to as BTEX.

Download a copy of the Fact Book here, or request hard copies at no charge by contacting CFDCinc@aol.com.

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Advocate for Safe Air – Sign This Petition

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By Doug Sombke, SDFU President & fourth-generation South Dakota farmer

As farmers who have advocated for ethanol for nearly four decades, we understand the impact higher ethanol blends can have on our farm economy.

Higher ethanol blends, like E30 would create $42 billion in economic activity to sustain the agricultural-based economies in the United States by increasing demand for corn by 5 billion bushels.

However, have you given much thought to the impact higher ethanol blends, like E30, can have on the air we breath and our children’s health?

Research shows, the additives in fuel are proven carcinogens. Yup, Benzene, Toulene, Ethyl Benzene and Xylene - they all cause cancer, and we’re all breathing them in! And, these additives CAN be removed from gasoline if higher ethanol blends are added to gasoline.

In fact, if these harmful additives were removed from gasoline and replaced by higher ethanol blends, it would decrease premature deaths by 50,000 – because 50,000 deaths in the United States are associated with pollution from transportation fuels.

What can you do? Sign the Make Gasoline SAFE! Petition, launched by the Clean Fuels Development Coalition asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove cancer-causing additives from gasoline.

Please sign today. Simply click here

Want to learn more, watch this video and share it with your friends: Do You Know Jack? Part 1@ https://youtu.be/NURz10BLaaI.


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How to Help Your Friends & Loved Ones When Challenges Impact Mental Health?

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It’s no secret that markets are down … for the third consecutive year in a row. And, the weather is less than cooperative. So, what do you do when financial stress or other factors out of our control catches up to a friend, loved one or you?

South Dakota Farmers Union reached out to experts to find out.

Don’t wait to get help. If a friend or loved one has diabetes or high blood pressure and their current diet or medications aren’t working, you wouldn’t tell them to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it.” More than likely, you’d suggest they meet with their doctor.

The same thoughtfulness should apply when a neighbor or family member is struggling with anxiety or depression, explained Karl Oehlke, a Physician Assistant with Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates.

“You can’t just grit your teeth and bear it. If you have pneumonia, I will prescribe an antibiotic for you. If you have sleep disturbance, I will give you something for sleep. Farming is never without stress. Right now, farmers are faced with a lot of stressors out of their control, which may be causing bonafide anxiety or depression. A medical professional can provide medication or counseling options to help with that too,” Oehlke said.

Oehlke speaks from experience. He is a third-generation Hartford farmer. In fact, Oehlke is concerned enough over farmers and ranchers’ mental health due to magnified stressors, that he suggested Avera launch the Farmer’s Stress Hotline.

Completely confidential and free, farmers, ranchers, their family and friends can call in 24/7 to visit with trained specialists to better understand where they can go for help. The Farmer’s Stress Hotline number is: 800-691-4336.

Signs you or a loved one needs mental health support

So, how do you know if someone you know, or love is battling anxiety or depression? Andrea Bjornestad, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Mental Health Specialist shares some symptoms to watch for among family and friends:

  • Depression, hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from people or activities they ordinarily enjoy
  • Negative thoughts, including frequent talk about disappearing or death
  • Strong feelings of guilt or low self-esteem
  • Decline in hygiene or appearance
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Stockpiling medication
  • Easy access to firearms

And, Bjornestad said if you see the above symptoms or assume someone is struggling, don’t hesitate to get involved. “If you see someone struggling, socially withdrawing, behavioral changes, don’t hesitate to ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves,” Bjornestad said. “Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. You asking will not impact a person’s response or thoughts.”

Approaching a friend or family member to discuss their mental health is not easy, Bjornestad offers some advice for this as well. She suggests talking to the person alone and in a private location.

“It is important to describe any changes you’ve observed in the person and to let them know that you care about them,” Bjornestad says. “After describing changes, you may need to ask tough questions directly including, “Have you had any recent thoughts of death and dying?” or, “Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide?’” 

If the answer is yes, the following resources are important:

  • Help the person get immediate mental health assistance.  Offer options such as the Helpline (dial 211) or Farmers Stress Hotline numbers; call a family member to come help and potentially take the person to the hospital; call a local mental health crisis team; call for emergency medical services. Do not leave the person alone.

 

“Remember, there are so many things right now that farmers and ranchers cannot control. We can’t control the prices. We can’t control the weather. But you can control whether or not you reach out for help to treat anxiety or depression symptoms,” Oehlke said. “By asking for help, farmers and ranchers are not only helping themselves, but they can help those around them. As farmers, we may not realize how many people we touch. Not only the many people we help feed, but our friends and family members are connected to our actions as well.”

For more information, call the Avera Farmer’s Stress Hotline at 800-691-4336 or Avera.org/FarmerStress, or contact Bjornestad at 605-688-5125 or andrea.bjornestad@sdstate.edu.

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