Posts for 2015

Celebrating Farm & Ranch Families: Ries Family Farm

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In 1950, Donald and Armella Ries purchased some farmland a few miles southeast of Watertown and began milking four cows. A year later, their son, Mel, was born. Today Mel, his wife Orla, and three of their five grown children continue to milk cows on the farm.
 
"I was raised with it, so I guess dairying stays in your blood," explains Mel, who began buying his own cows as a teen and farming full-time with his dad right out of high school.
In 1990 he purchased the farm from his folks.
 
His sons, Jason, Deric and Todd, joined the family farm much the same way; first buying cows in high school, then renting farm acres and today operating a 300-head cow/calf herd as well.
 
Now with families of their own, the brothers continue to slowly expand the farm's diversified operations.
 
"This is a family farm. Anyone and everyone who wants to be involved, is involved," explains Orla, as she rocks her young grandson, Walker, who is sleeping on her lap.
Three years ago, Orla retired from her off-farm job to babysit. She and Mel have 15 grandchildren and three on the way…

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Current Commodity Prices Impact All of South Dakota and Have Farmers Making Tough Decisions This Planting Season

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Spring fever hasn’t spread among South Dakota’s farmers as expected this planting season. Jeff Kippley attributes the atypical behavior to current commodity prices which are down about 65 percent from the last five-year average.

“Normally, when you see a 70 degree day, guys are chomping at the bit to get into their fields. This spring very few farmers I have talked with are excited to get planting because they’re worried they may not turn a profit on what they grow,” says Kippley, a Brown County grain and livestock farmer who is also the co-owner of H&R Block of Aberdeen…

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South Dakota Farmers Union President Granted Audience with Pope Francis & Vatican Leaders to Discuss Importance of Family Farming and Ranching

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HURON, S.D. - South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke was among five Farmers Union state presidents who were granted an audience with Pope Francis, March 25, 2015.

Sombke met with the Pope following a weeklong series of meetings with Vatican officials and rural-based non-governmental organizations to discuss the important role family farmers play in food security as well as the fact that most food produced in the U.S. is produced by family farmers.

 "This was an incredible opportunity for South Dakota Farmers Union and our brother organizations across the United States to work with the Vatican and network with others in Europe for the future of family farming," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and livestock farmer. "It also affords us the opportunity to let the world know what farming in the United States is truly like."

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates Christensen Farm Family

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates Christensen Farm Family 

Ask Marlow Christensen and his three sons, Dale, Don and Doug, why they chose farming as a career and their responses are similar.

"It's all we've ever known," explains Dale, who, like his younger brothers, joined the family operation full-time right out of high school.

His brother, Don, adds, "I didn't think about doing anything else. I enjoy working with the cattle, basically every bit of the work involved - even things like scraping the yards in the mornings."

Celebrating 51 years of marriage this year, Marlow and his wife, Donna, got their start in farming a year after they married. They rented the farm southwest of Beresford from Marlow's mom, Lucille (Jensen) Christensen, in 1965. Lucille's grandpa homesteaded the land in 1887.

Since the beginning, the work of running the feedyard and raising crops has been a family affair. "When the boys were too little to walk, I would put them in their little red wagon and they would sit there and watch us work in the barns," Donna recalls.

Even today, the family is not incorporated. They all share a percentage of the expenses and profits brought in by the 2,000-head feedyard and crops they market.

All in the Family: Two Generations Operate Family Farm Together near Beresford


Looking out over his family's feedyards, Marlow Christensen remembers the days when he was one of many farmer feeders.

Today, the landscape has changed. Marlow and his wife, Donna, and their sons, Dale, Don and Doug, are one of few farm families in the area to operate a feedyard.

Although they have fed out cattle since Marlow and Donna rented the farm in 1965, the feedyard became the focus of their farming operation in 2000 when they got out of the hog business and expanded from a 1,200-head feedyard to a 2,000-head feedyard.

Marlow is careful to distinguish the difference between a farmer feeder and a feedlot. "This is not a feedlot. We do not custom feed any cattle. We own all the cattle in this feedyard," Marlow explains.

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South Dakota College Students Learn about Cooperatives During the National Farmers Union Conference on Cooperatives a Success

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South Dakota College Students Learn about Cooperatives During the National Farmers Union Conference on Cooperatives a Success

Thirty students from Lake Area Technical Institute joined more than 150 college students from 25 states and Puerto Rico to participate in the 2015 National Farmers Union (NFU) College Conference on Cooperatives held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Feb. 19-22, 2015.

"This is an opportunity for the cooperative community to teach young people about cooperative business principles and to show them that there are great careers in these dynamic, ethical and community-minded businesses," said NFU President, Roger Johnson.

Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) students attended as guests of South Dakota Farmers Union. During the event they learned how cooperative businesses are adapting to changing environments and heard from cooperative experts from across the nation on why member-owned businesses are thriving in industries ranging from senior housing to healthcare.

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S.D. Farmers Union President Shares his Frustration with Legislative Disrespect for County and Local Governments

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Youth Learn Legislative Process during 3-Day Trip to Pierre

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Youth Learn Legislative Process during 3-Day Trip to Pierre


HURON, S.D. - When you're 15, politics can be confusing. South Dakota¹s Legislature is now more understandable for the teens who earned their way to attend the Farmers Union Two Year Legislative Award Trip, Feb 3-5, 2015.

"Until we made this trip to Pierre, we didn't understand what the Legislators do here exactly; it's been so interesting to see how it works," said Sammi Murtha, 15, a freshman at Parkston High School.

Her friend, Jennifer Hanson, adds; "It's one thing to read about the Legislative process in school, but by being here in the Capitol we get to see it live,²"says the Britton/Hecla High School freshman.

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Mad Cow Disease in Canada Affirms Need for COOL

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The recent case of Mad Cow disease confirmed in Canada affirms the value of COOL (County-of-Origin-Labeling) to protect Americans’ meat supply, said Doug Sombke South Dakota Farmers Union President.

“Do you really want your lawmakers to repeal a law that tells you where your food comes from? In light of the confirmation of a disease with fatal implications in Canada, it is hard not to support a law that gives consumers basic information on where their food comes from,” Sombke said.

Today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed mad cow disease in a beef cow in Alberta, Canada. To read more about this case, visit South Dakota Farmers Union Facebook page.

South Dakota Farmers Union urges consumers and producers alike to call their representatives today in support of leaving COOL in our federal law. The switchboard to the Capitol is (202) 224-3121.

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South Dakota Farmers Union, Cattle Producers & Consumers Praise U.S. Dist. Court Decision to Dismiss COOL Lawsuit

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, praised the Feb. 9, 2015 dismissal of the U.S. District Court lawsuit on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), filed by the multinational meatpacking industry and their allies in an attempt to stop the USDA from implementing the very popular labeling law.

"COOL is designed to protect the rights of American cattle producers and consumers. This dismissal ensures the right to know where food is produced," said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth generation Conde crop and cattle producer.

The papers ending the long and costly lawsuit were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ending American Meat Institute (AMI) et al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al., originally filed in July 2013.

"This is a clear and indisputable win for American consumers and producers, and it's a huge relief to know that common-sense labeling laws, like COOL, can prevail in court despite the deep pockets of the multinationals," said Natl. Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Praises U.S. Dist. Court Decision to Dismiss COOL Lawsuit

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HURON, S.D. - South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke praised the Feb. 9, 2015 dismissal of the U.S. District Court lawsuit on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), filed by the multinational meatpacking industry and their allies in an attempt to stop the USDA from implementing the very popular labeling law.

 "COOL is designed to protect the rights of American cattle producers and consumers. This dismissal ensures the right to know where food is produced," said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth generation, Conde crop and cattle producer.

 The papers ending the long and costly lawsuit were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ending American Meat Institute (AMI) et al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al., originally filed in July, 2013.

 "This is a clear and indisputable win for American consumers and producers, and it's a huge relief to know that common-sense labeling laws, like COOL, can prevail in court despite the deep pockets of the multinationals," said Natl. Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.

 The dismissal comes on the heels of the Jan. 22, 2015 release of a new study conducted by Auburn University Professor, Robert Taylor which showed that allegations that COOL depressed prices of Canadian cattle were false. The study not only demonstrated that fed cattle price basis actually declined after COOL went into effect, but also that COOL had no negative impact on imports of slaughter cattle and did not significantly affect imports of those of feeder cattle.

  "The findings of this study are an exciting discovery for U.S. cattle producers who are proud of the meat we produce as well as for the consumers who want to know where their food comes from," Sombke said.

 Sombke explained that this study is completely transparent, unlike the one it debunks. "This study was conducted using mandatory pricing data made public by the packers, whereas the study it contradicts used information that is not available to the public. This raised a lot of suspicion," Sombke said.

 Last week a Canadian delegation comprised of the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz and members of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Meat Council made a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill. Johnson called the trip "their last act of desperation." Johnson urged members of Congress to stand by the popular labeling law - supported by roughly 90 percent of consumers - and urged the Canadians to allow the World Trade Organization to consider the new study and the total body of information and arrive at a decision on its own.

 "If the U.S. Courts are any indication of the trajectory of success of COOL, then American consumers are finally going to be permitted to know where their food comes from without intervention from our chief trade competitors and their multinational allies," Johnson said.

 Call to action

National Farmers Union encourages consumers and cattle producers alike to reach out to Congress and urge them to not be influenced by foreign governments and foreign competitors and leave COOL alone. A link to the Auburn University study can be found at www.nfu.org. The main number to the Hill switch board is 202-224-3121.

  

Link to Preliminary Estimates of the Impacts of U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on Cattle Trade Study: http://www.nfu.org/images/COOLReport1132015Final.pdf

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S.D. Farmers Union says Renewable Fuels Standard Reform Act Will Negatively Impact SD Farmers, Rural Communities & Ethanol Industry

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HURON, S.D. - The Renewable Fuels Standard Reform Act released yesterday could have a negative impact on South Dakota's farmers, rural communities and ethanol industry if the recommendations become law, said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 In the report, it is recommended an end to ethanol subsidies, which are included as part of the current Renewable Fuels Standard.

 "Our South Dakota's farmers and rural communities have benefited greatly from what has been a thriving ethanol industry in our state," Sombke explained. "Especially today, with commodity prices as low as they are, the ability to market corn to local ethanol plants has increased our price per bushel by at least 10 cents. Not to mention the economic impact the ethanol industry has throughout our state."

 Sombke refers to the approximately 1,900 South Dakotans employed by the industry who earn, on average, about $60,000 each year. A 2012 study conducted by the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association, noted an annual economic impact of about $3.8 billion statewide. Nationally, South Dakota ranks sixth in ethanol production.

 "Ethanol has become a part of the fabric of many rural communities; if they take ethanol subsidies away, it will hurt schools, jobs and not to mention the price of corn. For the EPA to suggest removing subsidies from a clean burning fuel baffles me. Why aren't they also suggesting that Big Oil lose its subsidies?" Sombke asked.

 Sombke's comments echo that of Roger Johnson, President of National Farmers Union.

 Following the Feb. 4, 2015 recommendations to eliminate the corn-based ethanol mandate for biofuel production and restrict overall volume targets; Johnson said, "The elimination of the corn-based ethanol mandate and blend cap will gut the nation's biofuel production, strand existing investment in second generation biofuel production and hurt family farmers, ranchers and rural communities that have experienced much-needed reinvestment from this policy. This is not only a bad step for agriculture, but also is a major setback to the environment and our nation's attempts to manage its carbon emissions. We urge Congress to reject this policy and continue to embrace the vision of a robust renewable fuels industry as a component of this nation's overall energy portfolio."

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


Courtesy of SDFU Doug Sombke, President, South Dakota Farmers Union. 


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Junior REAL: South Dakota Farmers Union Continues to Cultivate Leaders in South Dakota's Youth

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HURON, S.D. - Through South Dakota Farmers Union Jr. REAL (Junior Rural Economic and Leadership) program, high school juniors and seniors in rural schools across the state have been learning about community service, leadership and personal finance for the past nine years.

The program gets kids to start thinking about the choices they are making with money.

Karla Hofhenke, S.D. Farmers Union Executive Director, says they try to bring Jr. REAL to 10 locations each fall and winter to deliver their daylong program. Britton-Hecla was one of those locations this fall.

 "We gained great real life and practical things that kids could apply to their own lives and the future. All four of the presentations were very pertinent to juniors and seniors and things that are happening in their lives right now, plus the things that are happening in the next couple of years as they transition to college," says Carrie James, principal at Britton-Hecla High School.

 James appreciates the effort that Farmers Union puts into bringing such a great program to rural schools. The organization comes well prepared, leaving little additional work for the school district.

 "As a rural school, sometimes we don't have all the different opportunities that maybe a more urban school might have," James says. "I knew it would be a quality experience. I know that Farmers Union is a very big supporter of our schools."

For the second year, SDFU sponsored a public service announcement (PSA) contest after the Jr. REAL program.

 Hofhenke says the PSA contest gives the students a chance to show what they learned from the program in a fun way. She says the PSAs appeal to students because they can use modern technology to create something fun and educational.

 Pat Renner, elementary physical education teacher and high school multimedia teacher at Britton-Hecla, had three teams complete a PSA. However, only one can be submitted to the contest. Their team made up of junior, Toni Symens, and sophomores, Ben Boyko, Tyler Bush and Laken Olson, won the contest.

For their video, they put together a re-enactment where two students graduate from high school and go out and get credit cards. One makes good choices and the other makes poor choices and ends up living on the street.

 The team hopes viewers will learn how to make better decisions financially.

"I hope they'll see the gravity of the situation if you make bad choices," Boyko says.

Renner says the PSA contest was a good avenue for his students to research more about credit cards and credit scores.

 "I think it's always good for the kids to learn about their finances at an early age because sometimes they don't get that at home," Renner says.

 Symens says the Jr. REAL program was educational and helped them learn about credit scores. She says it will help prepare her for decisions she will need to make heading into college.

 Hofhenke feels the PSAs do a great job in helping students to understand financial situations. She hopes the Jr. REAL program will help South Dakota's young people make wiser decisions as they become adults.

 "The choices today equal your opportunities tomorrow," Hofhenke says.     

Courtesy photo
Students from Britton-Hecla win the SDFU sponsored public service announcement contest. Students pictured include: Laken Olson, Ben Boyko, Tyler Bush and Toni Symens of Britton-Hecla High School won the South Dakota Farmers Union PSA contest. 

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates January Farm Family

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Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union will highlight a South Dakota farm or ranch family each month. In January, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Kippley family who farms near Aberdeen.
 
Like all business owners, farmers are always crunching numbers, so the fact that John Kippley, 69, and his son, Jeff, 35, both have accounting degrees works well for the Aberdeen farmers. "The two go hand-in-hand because you're always trying to figure out what crop to plant based on cash flow," John explains.

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SDFU Strengthens Rural Communities through Scholarships

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The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation announces the 2015 Foundation Scholarship recipients. The students include: Alexandra Farber, Britton; Jonathan Linke, Woonsocket; and Tyana Gottsleben, Philip. These students will be attending post-secondary education in South Dakota in fall 2015.

Since 1961, the S.D. Farmers Union Foundation has invested in the lives of rural youth because the organization believes education is crucial to the future of South Dakota's rural communities and the state's family farms and ranches.

"Part of our mission is to help our young people as they pursue education and to aid them in their future careers," said Bonnie Geyer, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director. "We hope that by attending South Dakota schools, more students will return to their rural communities to help make these communities stronger."

As the Education Director for more than 17 years, Geyer works with Farmers Union Youth Programming which reaches more than 3,000 rural youth (kindergarten through high school) each year through a summer camp program and in-school leadership programming.

The three scholarships awarded include: the Memorial Scholarship, presented on behalf of the families of the late Emil Loriks, Les Saboe and other Farmers Union members; the Cooperative Scholarship, which is awarded on behalf of the late Ben and Dorothy Radcliffe and the families of the late Clifford Ott, Richard Pastian and Adam Seidel; and the Leadership Scholarship, which is presented on behalf of the family of the late Frank Butler.

Applications, which include several essays, as well as letters of recommendation and transcripts, were submitted between Sept. 2014 and Dec. 1, 2014. A committee made of Geyer, S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, and two members (rotating), review the applications and select scholarship recipients on the basis of organizational and community involvement, academic achievement, leadership activities and financial need.

Each year when she reviews the scholarship applications, Geyer says she is optimistic for the future. "These young people are the cream of the crop. They are involved in their communities, have goals and are looking at how they can benefit their state through their future careers," she said.

Doug Sombke echoes Geyer's statement. As President of S.D. Farmers Union, he explained that although academic standing is important, community outreach and involvement plays a large role in which students are selected for the scholarships.

"Students who receive these scholarships are leaders in their communities. They are involved in organizations like Farmers Union, FFA or 4-H," Sombke said. "These scholarships are one of the many ways our organization works to empower the next generation of South Dakotans."

Meet the Recipients

Alexandra Farber of Britton has been awarded a $500 Farmers Union Memorial Scholarship on behalf of the families of Emil Loriks, Les Saboe and other Farmers Union members who have donated to the memorial scholarship fund. Farber is the daughter of Tom and Lori Farber and is a senior at Britton High School. She plans to attend South Dakota State University Honors College to major in marketing and theatre, with a minor in English. In 2014, Farber received the S. D. Farmers Union Torchbearer award. In addition to Farmers Union Youth Programming, Farber is involved in oral interpretation, drama, choir and volleyball, and serves on the Britton Public Library Youth Advisory Board, as well as many other community and scholastic activities.

Jonathan Linke of Woonsocket has been awarded a $500 Farmers Union Cooperative Scholarship on behalf of Ben and Dorothy Radcliffe and the families of Cliff Ott, Dick Pastian and Adam Seidel. Linke is the son of Henry and Paula Linke and is a senior at Woonsocket High School. After graduation, Jonathan plans to attend South Dakota State University and is considering a major in Ag Journalism. In 2014, Linke received the S. D. Farmers Union Torchbearer award. In addition to Farmers Union Youth Programming, Linke is involved in band, FFA, 4-H, All State Chorus, VFW Baseball and St. Wilfred's Youth Group, as well as many other community and scholastic activities.

Tyana Gottsleben of Philip has been awarded a $500 Farmers Union Leadership Scholarship on behalf of the family of Frank Butler. She is the daughter of Bill and Jayne Gottsleben and is a senior at Philip High School. Tyana plans to pursue a degree in education. In 2014, Gottsleben received the S. D. Farmers Union Torchbearer award and was selected to serve on the 2015 Farmers Union Senior Advisory Council. In addition to Farmers Union Youth Programming, Gottsleben is involved in Family Career & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), track, band, choir, class treasurer and Sacred Heart Catholic Youth Group, as well as many other community and scholastic activities.

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