Posts for July 2018

SD Farmers Union Members Call for Strong Leadership & Action During July 25 Policy Meeting

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Concerns over the survival of South Dakota's family farms and ranches motivated many members of South Dakota Farmers Union to meet in Huron July 25, 2018 and establish policy calling for Congressional leadership to act on behalf of our state's number one industry.

 "We request our delegation to support our states farmers and ranchers, to end the trade tariffs, get a Farm Bill passed immediately, and finish the NAFTA trade agreement.

Our producers cannot afford lower prices along with higher input costs, they will be forced by lenders to leave the occupation they love.

We believe this should be one of the top priorities for the remainder of this year. As our state's number one industry, immediate action is paramount for the survival of agriculture in South Dakota and national security. We are in desperate need of leadership from you," reads a portion of the Call to Action introduced by Pierpont farmers, Franklin Olson and David Sigdestad and passed unanimously by SDFU members.

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SD Farmers Union Joins NFU in Urging Administration to Do More

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HURON, S.D. - In response to the Trump Administration's announcement of a $12 billion plan to provide emergency aid to farmers amidst an escalating trade war with China and other trading partners, Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President urges the Administration to do more to help family farmers and ranchers.

 "How will this help the South Dakota farmers who need emergency funds the most," asked Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer from Conde who was among a group of agriculture leaders and media invited to a phone conference with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue as he discussed the plan that will include direct assistance, a food purchase and distribution program, and a trade promotion program.

 "This plan sounds just like a re-run of the same plan that was put in place during the Farm Crisis and wheat embargo of the 1970s. That plan failed. This plan is evidence that the administration had no clue of the devastating impact this trade war is having on America's heartland - it is costing our family farmers money to raise crops this year," Sombke said.

 He explained that farmers will not have access to the $12 billion in relief until January 2019 - after their production year is complete.

 Sombke and SDFU join with National Farmers Union (NFU), the nation's second largest general farm organization, in this request to do more to provide a long-term fix to the long-term damage of the trade war.

 The group supports the president's efforts to improve fair trade relationships with trading partners yet has grown weary of the administration's go-it-alone, bull-in-a-china-shop approach.

 Sombke will meet with Senator John Thune this afternoon to discuss SDFU thoughts on the announcement.

 Below is a statement from NFU President Roger Johnson issued in response to the announcement:

 "President Trump's escalating trade war with China and much of the rest of the world requires that we go to significant lengths to protect the men and women who grow our food, fuel and fiber. Their livelihoods are on the line with every tweet, threat or tariff action that comes from the White House. Market prices for farm products are plunging from already very low levels, and it's been estimated that farmers lost more than $13 billion last month alone due to trade disruptions.

 "While we appreciate the move to provide stopgap assistance, this plan is a short-term fix to a long-term problem. The administration must develop a support mechanism that will mitigate the significant damage that is being inflicted upon our most vital international markets for years to come. They should do this by working with Congress to ensure farm bill programs provide enough assistance to farmers when markets collapse."

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With Friends Like This...

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With Friends Like This...

South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke discusses how the EPA's proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule would hurt both the ethanol and agriculture industries.

This op-ed originally ran in the Ethanol Producer Magazine July 13, 2018 

 The news we get out of Washington these days lies somewhere between incredible and laughable, particularly with our Environmental Protection Agency. There is no precedent for the anti-ethanol, pro-oil actions of a federal agency like we are seeing from EPA. And this is from an administration and an agency that professes to be a friend to ethanol. It reminds us of the old saying: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" But let's be clear: They are not friends to ethanol or, for that matter, agriculture.

 In this last display of "support," led by technocrats in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the agency has proposed to make the use of ethanol blends above 15 percent volume illegal and restrict such blends to flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). This comes on the heels of recent waivers granted by EPA to refiners who have failed to comply with the law of the land-the Renewable Fuel Standard-requiring the petroleum industry to include a modest percentage of fuels derived from renewable resources.

 A previously established market of at least 15 billion gallons has been whittled down by 2 billion gallons, effectively reducing corn demand by nearly 700 million bushels. With many of our farmers already operating below the cost of production, this is another blow. It also comes at a time when EPA is grappling with federal fuel economy standards and the need for high-octane, low-carbon fuels-a job description ethanol fills perfectly when used in higher blends. The Department of Energy has long endorsed the use of blends between 25 and 40 percent as the sweet spot for ethanol in terms of price, octane and emissions. Here in South Dakota, a joint effort by corn growers and ethanol producers continues to demonstrate E30 blends in conventional vehicles with tremendous success and no problems whatsoever. And that is important because, in another ironic twist to this story, FFVs have been put out to pasture thanks to EPA. Automaker incentives to produce such vehicles have been all but eliminated and the fact is, the higher blends are more efficient in conventional vehicles.

 EPA has all the legal authority it needs to extend the vapor pressure rules to allow year-round use of E15 and higher blends, but has not included such a rule or even proposed to do so. Nor has it approved an E30 certified fuel by which auto manufacturers can vigorously test new models to enable them to optimize and provide warrantees. Yet, EPA has the time and resources to pull out an Obama Administration proposed rule that the Trump Administration should throw away.

 The rule proposed by EPA is called Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support and is the answer to a question no one in the ethanol industry asked. But one does not need to be a master detective to conclude who would ask for such an action: the petroleum industry. Is there any precedent for an industry to have a federal agency cap its competition? It is so outrageous it is hard to really grasp.

 Not only does such an action cap the volume of ethanol but it relegates it to its lowest value. Its highest value is to provide octane and reduce the toxic carcinogens in gasoline while offering consumers a significant cost savings at the pump. Left unchallenged, the oil industry would have a guaranteed 85 percent of the motor fuel market for light-duty vehicles. The 15 percent share left for ethanol would be used for octane but the oil industry would continue to make a huge profit off the lower price it pays for that ethanol, all the while continuing to unnecessarily poison the air all Americans breathe.

 The ethanol industry, farmers everywhere, environmentalists and health advocates should share a common goal of having this rule scrapped. Proponents of a free market should be appalled at the intervention of a federal agency in the market. Consumers should be outraged that a lower-cost, healthier fuel is intentionally being denied to them by the very government agency charged to protect them. In fact, anyone other than someone who makes a profit off gasoline should make defeating this rule a high priority.


Doug Sombke is President of South Dakota Farmers Union and a fourth-generation Conde farmer. He can be reached at

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