Posts for September 2018

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September 26, 2018

Opinion Piece by Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union 

During the recent National Farmers Union Fly-In, South Dakota Farmers Union members met with South Dakota congressional aides from who were surprised by the stories we shared, saying that when they visited with South Dakota agricultural producers this summer, they did not hear of the challenges facing farmers due to tariffs on top of already low farm gate prices and rising energy, shipping and input cost. 

 PLEASE share your story with them. Let them know how the tariffs and low commodity prices are impacting YOU.

 Every day, as President of South Dakota Farmers Union, I talk to farmers, bankers and Main Street business owners who are struggling due to the current situation. Some farmers say this will be their last harvest.

 Encourage your banker, neighbors and friends to share their story with our congressional leaders as well.

 Here's how to reach them:

Senator John Thune Phone: (202) 224-2321

Email: https://www.thune.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

Senator Mike Rounds Phone: (202) 224-5842

Email: https://www.rounds.senate.gov/contact/email-mike

Representative Kristi Noem

Phone: (202) 225-2801 Email: https://noem.house.gov/index.cfm/email-kristi   Thank you, Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union & fourth-generation Conde farmer

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Last Modified: 09/26/2018 7:14:10 am MDT


South Dakota Farmers Union Recognizes Farm Safety Year-Round

September 17, 2018

HURON, S.D. - In recognition of National Farm Safety & Health Week South Dakota Farmers Union Farm Safety trailer will be making stops at area schools to provide hands-on farm safety education.

 "Agriculture remains one of the deadliest U.S. occupations, with fatality rates higher than mining and construction. This is the reason farm safety education is a strong focus of our organization," explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. "The hands-on nature of this trailer will enhance this mission and allow us to provide farm safety education to youth year-round."

 Tracy Chase agrees. Chase teaches science and co-teaches agriculture education at McCook Central High School. "When learning is hands-on, it engages students' thought processes so they understand what they are learning," explains Chase.

 Chase says farm safety is a very real concern. "A farm safety accident had a large impact on our community this last year when a senior rolled his ATV and sustained a severe concussion that kept him from playing sports. Accidents touch close to home. Everyone needs reminders - youth and adults."

 Complete with an ATV simulator, grain bin safety, PTO safety and more, the trailer was designed by the SDFU team based on research and creatively addressing common safety concerns. It took more than a year to complete.

 "Preventing accidents through fun and interaction is the No. 1 goal of the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer," explains Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator. "This week and throughout the entire year, we are eager to partner with schools, 4-H clubs and FFA chapters and other organizations to bring our safety trailer to rural communities so South Dakota youth receive farm safety education that we hope prevents accidents and worse."

 Year-round the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer is on the road educating youth, to bring the trailer to your community, contact Forman at 605-350-3421 or rforman@sdfu.org.

In recognition of National Farm Safety & Health Week South Dakota Farmers Union Farm Safety trailer will be making stops at area schools to provide hands-on farm safety education. 

 Complete with an ATV simulator, grain bin safety, PTO safety and more, the trailer was designed by the SDFU team based on research and creatively addressing common safety concerns. It took more than a year to complete.

Year-round the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer is on the road educating youth, to bring the trailer to your community, contact Forman at 605-350-3421 or rforman@sdfu.org.

Complete with an ATV simulator, grain bin safety, PTO safety and more, the trailer was designed by the SDFU team based on research and creatively addressing common safety concerns. It took more than a year to complete.

Year-round the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer is on the road educating youth, to bring the trailer to your community, contact Forman at 605-350-3421 or rforman@sdfu.org.

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Last Modified: 09/17/2018 12:48:40 pm MDT


Fly-In is Good First Step South Dakota Farmer Says

September 14, 2018

As South Dakota family farmers and ranchers wrap up meetings with congressional leaders and staff today, September 14, the last day of the 2018 National Farmers Union Fly-In, Wessington farmer, Chris Johnsen says these conversations are a good first step.

 "But a lot more needs to be done. We need to keep constant pressure on those leading our country so they understand how bad the situation is, and know that things need to change," explains Johnsen, after a day of meeting with congressional staff from South Dakota as well as other states.

 Aberdeen farmer, Kirk Schaunaman agrees. "The agriculture economy has lost 50 percent of our income over the last five years. All commodities are suffering from these depressed markets. We need support for rural America, production agriculture and all farmers."

 Like many of the more than 30 South Dakota agriculture producers and supporters who traveled to DC for the Farmers Union Fly-In, Schaunaman raises soybeans. And, like all soybean growers, he is concerned over the dramatic drop in prices due to the current trade war with China.

 South Dakota is home to more than 11,000 soybean growers. In the current market, many are losing more than $2 on every bushel of soybeans they raise this year.

 Each year, nearly 70 percent of the 255 million bushels of soybeans harvested in South Dakota are exported. As of January 2018, China was the largest importer of South Dakota soybeans.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2018 10:47:43 am MDT


South Dakota Farmers Meet with Surface Transportation Board to Discuss Rail Issues

September 13, 2018

HURON, S.D. - Maintaining strong communication between the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and farmers was the purpose of a meeting between STB board and South Dakota farmers held in D.C. September 12.

 "This is the beginning of what we see as a series of conversations with STB members to ensure that history does not repeat itself," said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth generation Conde farmer.

 Sombke references issues South Dakota, and other Upper Midwest, farmers faced shipping grain in 2012 and 2013.

 "We wanted to make sure that new STB members understand the challenges we faced in the past - which we were able to overcome by working together. It is our goal, that once trade opens up again, we are able to ship our commodities," Sombke explained.

 And today, there are additional concerns, said Aberdeen farmer, Jeff Kippley. "This trade war was not the farmers choice, it was the government's choice. The concern is, if and when trade opens again with China, will there be rail cars available to ship our grain? As with any good company, those rail cars aren't sitting idle. They are hauling oil and other goods," Kippley said. "We don't want them to forget about us."

 With plans to meet periodically with the STB moving forward, Sombke and Kippley said they feel optimistic about the future.

 "We were able to share the policy of Farmers Union as it pertains to rail. STB said they were appreciative of the information shared and encouraged us to maintain this open communication between our farmers and the STB," Sombke said.

 This meeting was one of many South Dakota family farmers and ranchers participated in during the 2018 National Farmers Union Fly-In, held this week in D.C.


MEDIA NOTE:

If you'd like to visit with a farmer or rancher from your coverage area during the Fly-In, contact Karla Hofhenke via text: 605-350-5976 or e-mail:Karla@SDFU.org.

 

Please remember to include your best call back number.

Maintaining strong communication between the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and farmers was the purpose of a meeting between STB board and South Dakota farmers held in D.C. September 12.

"We wanted to make sure that new STB members understand the challenges we faced in the past - which we were able to overcome by working together. It is our goal, that once trade opens up again, we are able to ship our commodities," explained Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and fourth generation Conde farmer.

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Last Modified: 09/13/2018 10:46:28 am MDT


Patriots, Raise Your Voices & Fight for American Agriculture

September 12, 2018

North Dakota Senator, Heidi Heitkamp called upon family farmers and ranchers to demand action beyond the market trade adjustment, when it comes to resolving the trade war.

"I want all patriots to raise your voices and fight for American agriculture. Stand up. Enough is enough. We have been patient long enough and demand resolution. We demand action, action beyond what we have been given," said Heitkamp discussing the current trade war and its devastating impact on soybean farmers throughout the nation. "Patience is running thin with every combine that loads another load of soybeans that have no place to go."

Heitkamp made these remarks during a meeting with more than 350 farmers and ranchers during a rally with Farmers Union members participating in the national organizations' D.C. Fly-In. "You took those pennies (checkoff dollars) and invested them in trade promotion and, an amazing thing happened, after three decades we got into the Chinese markets with our soybeans. Then, in one year the market collapses."

Her message resonated with Chris Johnsen, a soybean farmer from the Wessington area. In fact, depressed markets brought Johnsen to DC, along with more than 30 South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and their supporters.

"I have friends and neighbors who are having a hard time making ends meet. It's important that we get the message out that if prices stay where they are, we can't make it. Farmers cannot do this year-in and year-out," explains Johnsen, who also speaks with the future in mind, as his son, Ryland also farms with him.

Providing a platform for South Dakota family farmers and ranchers, like Johnsen, to have their voice heard is an important focus of South Dakota Farmers Union, said SDFU President, Doug Sombke.

"Our organization unites farmers and ranchers, so that our message has the power of numbers behind it. This is true, in good times and bad. Today, times are tough. The timing of this trade war makes what were bad commodity markets, worse. This week, by sharing our story of its impact on us with those in power, we hope will make a difference," said Sombke, a fourth generation Conde farmer.

North Dakota Senator, Heidi Heitkamp called upon family farmers and ranchers to demand action beyond the market trade adjustment, when it comes to resolving the trade war. Her message resonated with many, including the more than 30 South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and their supporters who are in D.C. this week for the National Farmers Union Fly-In.

Ronalee and Chris Johnsen farm near Wessington, S.D. They are among the more than 30 South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and their supporters who are in D.C. this week for the National Farmers Union Fly-In.

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Last Modified: 09/12/2018 1:56:52 pm MDT


South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers in DC to Share Their Story & Challenge Congressional Leaders to Support American Agriculture

September 12, 2018

More than 30 South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and their supporters traveled to Washington, D.C. this week (September 12-14) to meet with Congressional leadership to share their stories and how the current market economy is challenging the work they do to feed and fuel families across this nation and the world. These South Dakota Farmers Union members are among the more than 250 members from across the nation who met in D.C. for the 2018 National Farmers Union annual Fly-In.

"It's exciting to be in D.C. to visit with Congressional leaders while everyone is chewing over the farm bill and, during a time that whenever I turn on the news, no matter which channel, they are actually talking about soybeans," explains third generation De Smet farmer, Rob Lee, 32, who raises soybeans, corn with his dad and brother.

During the first day of this two-day Fly-In, Lee and the group met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue as well as other Department of Agriculture officials to discuss the status of the farm bill, the impact the trade war has had on farmers and ranchers and other issues impacting South Dakota's agriculture producers.

"What an exceptional opportunity for Secretary Perdue and Congressional leaders to hear from those of us most impacted by this trade war and hear our personal stories. We hope this interaction with those of us who actually plant the corn, feed the cattle and harvest the soybeans will help him understand why we need a farm bill sooner than later," said Doug Sombke, Conde farmer and SDFU President.

For the remainder of their time in D.C., the group will continue to share their personal stories, meeting one-on-one with Congressional leadership and staff.

Along with Sombke and Lee, the other South Dakotans who are attending the NFU Fly-In include:

Wayne Soren, Lake Preston farmer and SDFU Vice President; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Larry Birgen, Beresford farmer; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen farmer; Terry and Eileen Sestak, Tabor farmers and Terry serves as an SDFU board member; Oren and Tracy Lesmeister, Parade ranchers; Brett and Jessica Kenzy, Iona farmers and their children, Sierra Rencountre, and Sapphire Kenzy; David Sigdestad, Pierpont farmer; David and Brenda Reis, Oacoma farmers; Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator, Huron; Chris and Ronalee Johnsen, Wessington farmers; Craig Blindert, Salem farmer and Farmers Union Insurance Agent; Luke Blindert, Salem farmer and Farmers Union Insurance Agent; Jeff and Rachel Kippley Aberdeen farmers; Mitch Richter, SDFU lobbist, Rapid City; and Nathan and Samantha Miller, Houghton farmers.

A group of South Dakota high school and college youth, who serve on Farmers Union National Youth Advisory Council, also traveled with the group to DC. They include: Jim Brockel, Shade Hill; Caleb Nugteren, Canistota and Justin Goetz, Selby

Three South Dakota youth who serve on the National Farmers Union (NFU) National Youth
Advisory Council were among more than 250 family farmers and ranchers addressed today by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue during the NFU D.C. Fly-In. They are pictured here with their council members and the Secretary: (left to right) Camryn Billen, Wisconsin; Jim Brockel, South Dakota; Riley Labahn, North Dakota;Caleb Nugteren, South Dakota; U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, Justin Goetz, South Dakota and Jade Person, Minnesota

Third-generation De Smet farmer, Rob Lee is among more than 30 South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and their supporters traveled to Washington, D.C. this week (September 12-14) to meet with Congressional leadership to share their stories and how the current market economy is challenging the work they do to feed and fuel families across this nation and the world. These South Dakota Farmers Union members are among the more than 250 members from across the nation who met in D.C. for the 2018 National Farmers Union annual Fly-In.

"It's exciting to be in D.C. to visit with Congressional leaders while everyone is chewing over the farm bill and, during a time that whenever I turn on the news, no matter which channel, they are actually talking about soybeans," explains third generation De Smet farmer, Rob Lee, 32, who raises soybeans, corn with his dad and brother. 

Lee is pictured here during soybean harvest 2016 with his son, Everett.

During the first day of this two-day Fly-In, Lee and the group met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue as well as other Department of Agriculture officials to discuss the status of the farm bill, the impact the trade war has had on farmers and ranchers and other issues impacting South Dakota's agriculture producers.

More than 30 South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and their supporters heard comments today from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue during the 2018 National Farmers Union annual Fly-In held in D.C. September 12-14. 

During the Fly-In, South Dakotans will meet with Congressional leadership to share their stories and how the current market economy is challenging the work they do to feed and fuel families across this nation and the world. 

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Last Modified: 09/13/2018 9:49:36 am MDT


2018 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees Recognized Today During South Dakota State Fair

September 4, 2018

Each year, during the State Fair, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals for their selfless contributions to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. 

 Today, individuals from rural communities across South Dakota were recognized. The honorees are pictured here with Doug Sombke, SDFU President. Honorees include (left to right): Joe Schnell, Lake Preston; Diana Runge, Wessington; Tim Holzer, Arlington; Amy Hofer, Doland; Roger Deiter, Faulkton and Marie and John Condon, Millboro.

Each year, during the State Fair, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals for their selfless contributions to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride Award.  Today, individuals from rural communities across South Dakota were recognized. The honorees include: Joe Schnell, Lake Preston; Diana Runge, Wessington; Tim Holzer, Arlington; Amy Hofer, Doland; Roger Deiter, Faulkton and Marie and John Condon, Millboro.

 As an organization which supports South Dakota farmers and ranchers, Farmers Union understands the integral connection between those who work in South Dakota's number one industry and their rural communities.

 "One cannot survive without the other," says Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. "Without thriving communities, it's difficult to encourage young people to return to their family's farm or ranch. Rural communities are key to the future of South Dakota's agriculture industry, which is why we like to recognize those individuals who help them thrive." 

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Last Modified: 09/04/2018 12:13:22 pm MDT


Farmers Share Lunch Educates More than 1,000 Consumers

September 4, 2018

Many South Dakota family farmers and ranchers will not earn an income this harvest. In fact, once they pay for seed, fuel, feed and other inputs, when they sell what they've raised, some will actually lose money this year.

 To educate consumers on the current low prices, on Sept. 1, SD Farmers Union served a Farmers Share lunch, charging fairgoers the price a South Dakota farmer would receive for the ingredients used to make a $12 lunch.

 This year the organization only collected 25 cents from each of the more than 1,000 fed.

 "There is a big disconnect between the prices we see when we walk into the grocery store and what the farmer gets paid. We don't know what farmers earn because most people don't work on the farm anymore," said Dave Boos, a fairgoer who works as Director of Technology for Mitchell Technical Institute.

 This is the organization's largest educational events, says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. She explains that during the State Fair, along with the Farmers Share Lunch educating consumers on what the farmer actually earns from the food they produce, S.D. Farmers Union also hosted a Farm Bill panel discussion to help educate South Dakota farmers and ranchers on the upcoming farm bill and a TeamUp for Safety Quiz Bowl to help educate youth about farm safety.

 "Education is a large part of what we do as an organization. It's a focus of our mission," Hofhenke says.

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Last Modified: 09/04/2018 11:59:12 am MDT


Farm Bill, Trade & South Dakota Ag Economy Focus of State Fair Panel Discussion

September 4, 2018

The 2018 farm bill was the focus of South Dakota Farmers Union Panel discussion held September 1, 2018 during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair.

"South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers face tough economic times due to a trade war creating unstable markets - during a time when prices for our commodities were already low. This farm bill could offer some stability. We hope it is passed soon," says Doug Sombke, President of SD Farmers Union. "This is the reason we selected the farm bill as the focus of our annual State Fair panel discussion."

 Joining Sombke on the Freedom Stage were Paul Shubeck, State Director of the Farm Service Agency and Lynn Tjeerdsma, Senior Policy Advisor for South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

 "Agriculture is in a critical spot where a new farm bill is crucial," says Tjeerdsma, referring to current low commodity prices and trade war negatively impacting farmers this harvest. "This is the sixth farm bill I have worked on and the only one written during economic times like now."

 Sombke said this topic is not only timely, but the State Fair, surrounded by farm and ranch families, is a good place to hold a discussion of this importance. "This is an event, right before harvest, when many farm and ranch families take a few days to meet up, watch the next generation compete in 4-H and FFA competitions. We hope all who work in agriculture, who attended today's panel discussion, have a better understanding of what the next farm bill is and how it will impact them."

 Curt Hillestad, who farms near Claire City, says Sombke's goal was met. "You hear a lot of rumors, so I knew that this would help me understand what they are really thinking," explains the fourth-generation farmer. "I was also wondering about who is eligible for payments, and now I have my answer."

 SD Farmers Union will continue the conversation about the farm bill, trade war and the current challenges South Dakota's farmers and ranchers face when they travel to DC with more than 30 farmers and ranchers to meet with Congressional leaders Sept. 12-14 for the National Farmers Union Fly-In.

The 2018 farm bill was the focus of South Dakota Farmers Union Panel discussion held September 1, 2018 during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair. Panelists include (left to right): 

Paul Shubeck, State Director of the Farm Service Agency; Lynn Tjeerdsma, Senior Policy Advisor for South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Doug Sombke, SD Farmers Union President.

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Last Modified: 09/04/2018 11:56:42 am MDT


Hoven FFA Chapter Named Quiz Bowl Champions During Team Up For Safety State Fair Competition

September 4, 2018

Hoven FFA Chapter won today's S.D. Farmers Union Team Up For Safety Quiz Bowl held during the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.

 Team members include: Brady Keller, Chayce Rausch and Peter Rausch.

 The team was recognized with a cash prize.

 Other teams who qualified to compete today include the following FFA Chapters: Parker FFA Chapter, members include: Jackson Fiegen, Camden Bialas, Nick Haraldsen and Geoff Dunkelberger; Tri-Valley FFA Chapter, members include: Josh Hotchkiss, Jen Hotchkiss, Rhegan Oberg and Westen VanDerVliet and Wessington Springs FFA Chapter, members include: Isaac Kolousek, Cooper Hainy and Noah Hainy.

 The Team Up For Safety competition is run in a game-show format and held each year as a fun reminder to teens to keep safety top of mind. The four teams qualified for the championship during the State FFA Convention held this spring, where more than 20 teams competed.

 "For most of us in South Dakota, we like to think we're pretty in tune with what's going on around us," says Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President. "But life moves pretty fast and it's easy to take little things for granted. It could be something as simple as just taking the time to read labels on chemicals or applications and making sure you don't harm yourself or your livestock."

 Hoven FFA member, Peter Rausch agrees.

 "I know from firsthand experience how dangerous working on a farm can be. I lost a friend in a grain bin accident. He would have been a senior this year," says Rausch, who holds his OSHA certification thanks to a course he took as part of his high school's Agriculture Education class. "It is always good to be aware of your surroundings and be as safe as you can for yourself and others."

 

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Last Modified: 09/04/2018 11:54:08 am MDT


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