Summer Break: Keeping Children Safe on the Farm
by Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union
This Wednesday (June 13,2018), South Dakota Farmers Union fed hundreds of South Dakota families who gathered in Belle Fourche for the South Dakota State High School Rodeo Finals, among them is the Pirrung family of Hartford.
Payton, 16, qualified in team roping - an event he and his brother, Braden, 20, and dad, Dan, have been competing in since he was 6.
"I'm pretty competitive, so rodeo and competing with my friends, is something I enjoy," says Payton, who also qualified in the tie down event.
Although he says he could have participated in basketball, football, baseball ... Payton never gave much thought to any sport other than rodeo.
And, it's no wonder - rodeo is in his blood.
His mom, Cathy (Smith) Pirrung, grew up trailering horses to shows and playday rodeos. As a teen, barrel racing became her life.
by Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union
Renewable energy has intrigued Hans Breitenmoser since childhood.
"I can remember climbing up our 80-foot silo when I was a kid and thinking we should put up a wind turbine," says the Merrill, Wisconsin, dairy farmer.
His renewable energy daydreams became a reality in 2012 when he installed solar panels on the main freestall barn of his 430-cow dairy.
The panels produced about 10 percent of his dairy's energy needs. Which, he explains are substantial. "Even though today's dairy uses much less energy than we did in the past thanks to energy efficient technology, dairies use a lot of energy," he says, explaining energy is used to do everything from cool milk and run a parlor's milking equipment to powering ventilation fans, lagoon pumps and alley scrapers.
So, in 2016, when Breitenmoser was drawing up plans for a new barn, he decided to increase his farm's solar energy footprint. This time, instead of financing the project on his own, the Wisconsin Farmers Union member worked with Farmers Union Enterprises to help him fund the installation that, coupled with the 2012 panels, now covers 25 percent of his farm's energy needs.
"In the state of Wisconsin, we don't have any coal, we don't have any natural gas, so I think it's silly that in 2018 more than 60 percent of the electricity our citizens consume is produced by burning coal that has to be transported to our state from more than a 1,000 miles away," Breitenmoser says.
Investing in renewable energy not only aligns with Breitenmoser's moral compass, but it saves him, on average, more than $330 each month on his electric bill.
"The Wisconsin dairy industry is really hurting right now - corn and beans aren't worth much either - so, if solar energy can help farmers save money, and maybe provide an opportunity to sell extra energy back to the grid, all the while decreasing our use of fossil fuels, which we don't own, I think it's a good deal," Breitenmoser explains.
Darin Von Ruden agrees. "Every year we continue to see farmers leaving the land because they don't have a steady income," says the President of Wisconsin Farmers Union.
As state Farmers Union president, Von Ruden sits on the board of directors for Farmers Union Enterprises (FUE), the multi-business cooperative which helped Breitenmoser finance the solar panel installation.
The other Farmers Union state organizations which make up FUE include: South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. All funds raised through FUE businesses go to support the National Farmers Union and the five state's Farmers Union organizations.
"We are always looking for ways to keep our farmers farming," says Von Ruden, who also has solar panels on his barn roof - saving him, on average, $625 in electricity each month.
FUE collaborated with North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative to encourage Wisconsin farmers to consider solar energy.
"Farmers understand the long-term investment on equipment, like these solar panels," says Josh Stolzenburg, President of North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative, an Amherst, Wisconsin, farmer and a Wisconsin Farmers Union member.
Doug Sombke, President of the South Dakota Farmers Union was joined by National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson today (June 11, 2018) in calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon plans to finalize an Obama era rule that would cap ethanol blends at 15%.
In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sombke and Johnson criticized the Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) rule that would deny higher ethanol blends in conventional vehicles. Originally proposed in 2016, the National Farmers Union and a number of its state chapters (Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) submitted comments in opposition to the REGS Rule, arguing that EPA has misinterpreted the substantially similar provision of the Clean Air Act and that ethanol is now the nation's base certification fuel and is not limited as to volumes.
EPA has not put a specific timetable on the rule but has indicated it proposes to submit it for final approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which reviews all rules before being finalized.
The letter states that, "If EPA chooses to regulate ethanol content-i.e., such as prohibiting the use of E30 in legacy (non-FFV) vehicles-it must do so under Section 211(c), which puts the burden of proof on EPA, not the fuel ethanol industry. A vast amount of Department of Energy and national lab studies, as well as real world experience, conclusively proves that the use of high octane mid-level ethanol blends (E25 - E40) in legacy vehicles does NOT impair the performance of emission control systems, nor does it exacerbate harmful emissions. In fact, because mid-level ethanol blends like E30 reduce the level of carcinogenic aromatic compounds (BTEX) in gasoline, and promote more efficient combustion, the opposite is true."
"This has a direct impact on South Dakota Agriculture and could be worth $1.5 billion to our economy," said Sombke. "Here we are demonstrating that E30 blends are high performance, high value fuels and EPA is considering denying this option."
Sombke noted that EPA has not only failed to help increase the domestic ethanol market but is taking it backwards with the recent refinery waivers and ignoring the vapor pressure waiver requests for higher blends. FlexFuel Vehicle credits have all but been eliminated by EPA and there is simply no pathway for expanding the ethanol market, he added.
EPA is also proposing new fuel economy rules that Administrator Pruitt has acknowledged would be well served by higher octane fuels, octane that ethanol blends like the E30 being used throughout South Dakota can easily and economically provide.
"For an administration that professes to support removal of rules and regulations that impede domestic energy production - not to mention supporting American agriculture - this is the opposite of that promise. Our message to EPA is to open the market and remove these barriers to higher blends and help us create new markets for our corn.