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SDFU Now Taking Nominations for 2018 Rural Dakota Pride Awards

April 12, 2018

HURON, S.D. - During the Sturgis Rally, Jeff Kreun, the owner of Kreun Kustom, an upholstery shop that specializes in customized motorcycle seats and auto interiors, can be seen visiting with thousands of bike enthusiasts and taking orders. But to Kreun, custom upholstery is more than an income, he also uses his talents to engage teens.

 For several years now, Kreun has been involved in bike build projects designed to spark teens' interest in mechanics. He also helps engineering students from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology with contests.

 When asked why a small business owner makes time to help youth learn the skill of sewing he says, "I guess I see the world around us and most kids have a screen in front of them. I am appalled by this. It's exciting to see kids passionate about something tangible. When I see a kid light up when he creates something with his hands, it reminds me of myself when I was young."

 During the 2017 S.D. State Fair, S.D. Farmers Union (SDFU) recognized Kreun with the Dakota Rural Pride Award. Today, SDFU asks South Dakotans to nominate folks like Kreun, who give back to their communities, for the 2018 Rural Dakota Pride Award. Nominees do not need to be members of SDFU.

 Each year, SDFU recognizes five individuals who give back to their rural communities with the Rural Dakota Pride Award.

 "Rural communities depend on these everyday heroes. They are the people who do what needs to be done," says Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota SDFU.

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

 "One survives with the other," she says. "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: 04/12/2018 7:43:33 am MDT

Times Are Tough on the Farm & Politics Aren't Helping

April 5, 2018

HURON, S.D. - Times are tough on South Dakota's family farms and ranches and politics aren't helping, says S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke.

 "As a farmer, I've been told to get my prices from the market, yet this administration is creating an atmosphere that reduces demand, pushing down prices for my commodities and launching a trade war with one of our largest soybean importers that will further hurt prices. All the while, the protections we do have in the current Farm Bill are being threatened," Sombke says.

 Sombke's comments are a response to the Environmental Protection Agency April 3 decision to exempt one of the nation's largest oil refining companies from complying with the Renewable Fuels Standard regulation, which will have a negative impact on the state's corn producers; the current trade war with China and, a threat made on federally secured crop insurance.

 As president of one of the state's largest agriculture organizations, Sombke visits daily with family farmers and ranchers who make up the state's number one industry of agriculture - and the conversations are discouraging.

 "The farm economy is bad, really bad right now. Farmers are going backwards fast. We need this administration to stop developing policies and strategies that create economic pain for our family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities," says Sombke, who understands what is happening to farmers because He is also a fourth-generation crop and livestock producer whose grown sons now manage the day-to-day activities of the family's Conde farm.

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Last Modified: 04/05/2018 7:26:04 am MDT

Lake Area Technical Institute Joins S.D. Farmers Union for College Conference on Cooperatives

April 3, 2018

HURON, S.D. - Traditionally, when cooperatives come to mind most people think agriculture. For Bailey Miles and other students attending the College Conference on Cooperatives (CCOC) in Minneapolis that is far from the case.

 "This conference reminded me that cooperatives have so much variety and serve so many different purposes," says Miles, who is pursuing a commodity merchandising degree from Lake Area Technical Institute.

 Hosted by National Farmers Union, the three-day seminar works to accomplish just that.

 "Cooperatives play an important role in strengthening rural and urban economies and communities across the country. NFU's CCOC engages tomorrow's agricultural leaders in applying cooperative business principles and learning about opportunities available to them through the cooperative model," says NFU President Roger Johnson.

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Last Modified: 04/03/2018 8:05:37 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Supports Rural Energy for America Program with Letter of Support

March 27, 2018

National, regional and state associations and groups, including South Dakota Farmers Union, have signed on to a letter urging Agriculture Committee leaders and members in both the House and Senate to support the inclusion of the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program with increased or maintained mandatory funding in the next Farm Bill.
S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke issued the following statement in support of the program:
“REAP has made tremendous impact on South Dakota family farmers, ranchers, small business owners and their ability to produce clean energy, cutting energy cost and stimulating development in previously struggling rural communities. Rural economies are being faced with a multiyear slump in the farm economy, so it is vital optional revenue streams are available to increase farm incomes. Increasing or maintaining REAP helps ensure that the programs benefits will be available to more rural South Dakotan in years to come.”

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Last Modified: 03/27/2018 10:11:35 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Welcomes Rocky Forman to Serve as Member Services Coordinator

March 26, 2018

Rocky Forman recently joined South Dakota Farmers Union as the Member Services Coordinator.

 "We are excited to have Rocky join our team. He has enthusiasm for service to South Dakota's agriculture producers and agribusiness people," says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

 As Member Services Coordinator, Forman will organize the S.D. Farmers Union Young Producers Program, facilitate Farm Safety Trailer programming and engage in other outreach programming for members and non-members throughout South Dakota.

 "I enjoy helping people and look forward to sharing the South Dakota Farmers Union message of farm safety, as well as other agriculture-based programming with agriculture producers, their families and individuals throughout South Dakota," Forman says.

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Last Modified: 03/26/2018 9:23:16 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Provides Professional Leadership Training Through REAL Program

March 26, 2018

For Angela Hawkinson, the investment her community of Britton, South Dakota, made in her, has had a large impact on her life. She credits Britton with helping shape her into the person that she is today.

 "I was raised in my community and now I live in it and have built my life here," explains Hawkinson, who works in human resources and bookkeeping for Full Circle Ag. "This community has given me so much and I'm proud of this place. Now I feel like it's my turn to give back to it and invest in its future like it did in mine."

 To help her invest in her rural community, Hawkinson is furthering her leadership skills through the professional development program, Rural Economic and Leadership Development (REAL) program. Developed by South Dakota Farmers Union, REAL is designed to encourage and support rural professionals, like Hawkinson, by providing them with professional and leadership development.

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Last Modified: 03/26/2018 9:10:57 am MDT

Farmers Union Celebrates the Feickert Farm Family of Aberdeen

March 19, 2018

By Lura Roti for SDFU

 The second oldest of seven, Dennis Feickert grew up on a traditional 1950s South Dakota farm. His dad, Elvin, and mom, Christina, raised pigs, chickens, a cow/calf herd, a 30-cow dairy herd and corn, oats, wheat and hay.

 It was on this 1,200-acre McPherson County farm that a strong desire to work on the land and care for livestock was instilled in Dennis.

 "My passion and my love has always, absolutely been with the cattle and the land and the machinery. That is where my entire energies have always been focused," he says.

 Although the only career Dennis ever wanted was to be a farmer, when he graduated from high school, the family farm was too small. His dad was young yet and had a large family to support. "So, I moved to Aberdeen and began working for Dakota Farmer magazine and hated it - absolutely despised it," Dennis says.

 To emphasize how farmsick he was, Dennis tells this story. "It was summer. I would lay in our small apartment with the windows open to catch a breeze and I would smell alfalfa and I would go wacko, absolutely wacko."

 Because he couldn't change circumstances and he had a young family to support, instead of farming fulltime, at 21, Dennis joined the Aberdeen City Fire Department and built up a cow/calf herd as time, income and opportunity allowed.

 "I bought about 20 heifers at the sale barn and kept them at the kids' grandpa's farm. Then, we bought some 4-H heifers for the kids to show in 4-H and I rented some land and took a guy's cows on shares and kept a few of those heifer calves," explains Dennis, of the slow-but-sure way he built up the cow/calf herd to today's 180-head that he runs together with his son, Jason and daughter, Rebecca's cows.

 To have enough pasture and hay ground, Dennis rented or purchased small pieces of land close to Aberdeen. Then, in the mid-'70s, 40 acres of land just five miles from Aberdeen came up for sale. Dennis sold a duplex he had renovated and built a house and barn. He finally had his farm.

To read more, click here 

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Last Modified: 03/19/2018 10:07:39 am MDT

S.D. Farmers Union Foundation Supports Future of Agriculture with Scholarship

March 19, 2018

By Lura Roti for SDFU

 Improving the entire rural landscape through research that enables farmers to take a holistic approach to field management is the bold vision that drives Mike Bredeson, a South Dakota State University doctorate student and the recipient of the $2,500 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship.

 "Our rural communities are struggling for many reasons. Agriculture is the foundation of rural communities. If we can bolster our agricultural producers by  helping them to diversify their operations, conserve natural resources and improve profitability, the result will be invigorated farm economies," explains Bredeson, a south-central Minnesota farmboy who is currently pursuing a doctorate in agroecology in the Natural Resource Management Department at SDSU.

 Supporting students, like Bredeson, is the reason South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awards a graduate school scholarship each year.

 "Education is a focus of S.D. Farmers Union Foundation because it is key to the sustainability of agriculture and rural communities," says Doug Sombke, SDFU President and a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

 A full-time student, married to a full-time student, Bredeson said the scholarship means a lot to him and his family.

"t's enormous. Although I do receive a stipend for my research work, it's small. My wife is also a graduate student, so this scholarship means a lot to us as we pursue our dreams," he says.

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Last Modified: 03/19/2018 8:54:36 am MDT

South Dakota's Matt Birgen Recognized for Years of Service to Agriculture with National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award

March 8, 2018

Beresford farmer, Matt Birgen was recognized for his leadership and service to agriculture with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award during the organization's 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018.

The National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award recognizes members for their outstanding leadership and service to family agriculture and to Farmers Union over the course of their lifetimes.

 "Matt is unselfish and very forward focused. He is always looking out for the common good," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "His vision and leadership on the Farmers Union Industries board is exactly why we are in a position to continue to support the future of South Dakota's family farmers."

 Birgen served on the board of directors for Farmers Union Industries for nearly two decades. The organization owns several businesses, the dividends of which go to help fund South Dakota Farmers Union along with four other Farmers Union organizations as well as National Farmers Union programming. Today, Birgen's son, Larry sits on the Farmers Union Industries Board.

 "Dad's influence encouraged me to give back and serve agriculture - he influenced all of us kids to get involved," said Larry, one of seven children Matt and his wife Maureen raised on their diversified family farm. "Being involved was just natural for dad. It is just something he does."

 At 88, Matt remains involved with the family farm, together with Larry and his nephew, Steve.

 Along with Farmers Union Industries, throughout his lifetime, Matt, a Korean War Veteran, has remained actively involved in his local VFW, serving in many leadership positions over the last six decades; he served on the Clay County Farmers Union board of directors for more than 50 years; served on the North Central American Milk Producers Inc. board; served as President of the Clay County Board of Mutual Insurance Association board; served on the board of directors of Trucktown Cooperative; and has made several trips to Washington D.C. to advocate for agriculture.

 "Our voice needs to be heard. Whether it's as a veteran or a farmer, I believe that if I don't participate, who will? My dad belonged to Farmers Union, he served on the board of directors, that is why I got involved," explained Matt.

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Last Modified: 03/08/2018 7:56:19 am MST

South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers Travel to Kansas City for National Farmers Union Convention

March 8, 2018

More than 30 South Dakota family farmers and ranchers traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to develop policy advocating for agriculture during the organization's 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018.

"As a grassroots organization, Farmers Union truly gives family farmers and ranchers a voice," said Doug Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer and President of S.D. Farmers Union.

 He explains that the policy South Dakota delegates bring to the national convention was developed at the county level then voted on during South Dakota Farmers Union state convention. "What's voted on at the national level will be the policy our organization lobbies for in D.C.," Sombke explained.

Advocating for the future of South Dakota's number one industry is the reason Union Center rancher, Tammy Basel and her husband, Dallis left feeding and lambing chores in the hands of their adult sons and made the 12-hour drive.

 "Times are tough across ranch and farm country, we need to make our voice heard in D.C. and work together to make positive change here at home," said Basel who raises sheep and cattle.

 Other South Dakotans to attend the convention include: Doug Sombke, SDFU President, Conde; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist, Huron; Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director, Huron; Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President, Lake Preston; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Larry Birgen, Sioux Falls; Matt Birgen, Beresford; Hannah Sumption, Aberdeen; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Jennifer Hanson, Britton; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota; Bill Chase, Wolsey; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Becky Martinmaas, Orient; Gail Temple, Clark; Lisa Snedecker, Woonsocket; Mark Snedecker, Woonsocket; Lynn Frey, Lemmon; Rocky Forman, Huron; Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Taylor Sumption, Frederick; Marissa Holinka, Watertown and Lorrie Hanson, Britton.

 In addition to policy debates, South Dakota members celebrated Beresford farmer, Matt Birgen, 88, recognized for his leadership and service to agriculture with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award.

 To learn more about the National Farmers Union Convention visit

More than 30 South Dakota family farmers and ranchers traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to develop policy advocating for agriculture during the organization's 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018.

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Last Modified: 03/08/2018 7:52:12 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Kicks Off Campaign to Raise Awareness of Farm Bill

February 13, 2018

Fourth generation Frederick farmer, Taylor Sumption (second from left) with dad, John and brothers, Warren (far left) Chris, Eric and Mark. Sumption is among several family farmers asked to share their family's farm story as part of Farmers Union campaign to raise awareness of the need for a 2018 farm bill. To view the video, click here.

Enduring the worst economic slide in generations, South Dakota farm and ranch families need Congress to pass a farm bill in 2018 to strengthen the farm safety net.

"When it comes to the commodity markets, this is one of the worst years we have had in a long time," explained Taylor Sumption, a fourth-generation Frederick farmer who, together with his dad and four brothers, raise crops and livestock.

 Sumption's comments are echoed among farm and ranch families nationwide said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 "Commodity prices are low, and net farm income is projected to be down $4.3 billion nationally this year. We need Congress to start working on a farm bill immediately," said Doug Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer and President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "Agriculture is South Dakota's number one industry - and it's hurting right now. Family farmers need to be certain of crop insurance and other programs in the farm bill, so they can plan accordingly with their lenders in this time of low prices."

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Last Modified: 02/13/2018 10:44:33 am MST

FFA Provides Personal & Professional Development

February 8, 2018

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

The original article ran in the February 2018 issue of the SDFU Union Farmer newsletter.

 More than 4,500 South Dakota FFA members will celebrate National FFA Week Feb. 17-24.

 Founded to provide farm boys with leadership skills in 1929, the organization continues to be among the premier leadership organizations for high school youth - but today, it serves urban as well as rural youth from a diversity of backgrounds.

 To understand how this 89-year-old organization continues to attract members and impact the lives of South Dakota's youth, South Dakota Farmers Union asked four members of the 2017-2018 state FFA officer team a few questions.

 The current officer team includes: President Dalton Larson; Vice President Clayton Sorum; Secretary April Hamilton; Treasurer Aaron Linke; Reporter Avery Gilchrist and Sentinel Elle Moon.

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Last Modified: 02/08/2018 7:15:05 am MST

Coffee: It's Good For The Soul A Look at This Time Honored Tradition

February 5, 2018

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

The original article ran in the February 2018 issue of the SDFU Union Farmer newsletter.

 As an agriculture journalist, I've been driving through rural communities across South Dakota for more than two decades. If I pull into a fuel station before noon and step inside, I nearly always witness coffee.

 Coffee, as defined in this article, is quite simply a group of men, dressed for the workday in coveralls or T-shirts - depending on the weather of course - hands around steaming mugs or pop cans visiting.

 When I, an out-of-towner, walk in, conversations nearly always wane. And, even though I don't say a word, I always feel as though I am interrupting an important meeting of sorts. Kind of the feeling I get if I arrive late for church.

 Other than that uncomfortable feeling, I didn't give these coffees much thought until I spent a November morning visiting with Peter Bisgard and his adult sons, Bob and Randy. While interviewing them about their family's Day County farming operation, the men mentioned that coffee with neighbors is part of their daily routine.

 They explained to me that this daily ritual has value beyond the social. "We used to meet every morning at a bachelor neighbor's house. After he died, and we didn't meet for about six weeks. We all missed it and realized that we get a lot of information by talking to neighbors," Peter said.

 He explained to me that whether it was discussing a new piece of machinery before making a purchase or sharing a bit of local news, the men felt their day went better when it began with coffee. Today, the men meet up in the basement of their rural church.

 After talking with the Bisgards, I began to think about the role coffee has in the lives of South Dakota's farmers and ranchers. The more I thought about it, the more eager I was to visit with other farmers and ranchers to learn about this time-honored tradition that I believe dates back to homesteading.

 Just last winter when I was reading the Little House series to my 7-year-old daughter, Parker, I noticed that several chapters included comments about the Ingalls family waiting for Pa to return from coffee at the General Store to provide them with information.

 Staying connected, especially during the winter months, is the reason Salem farmer, Jim Wahle heads to T & C's Pit Stop each morning.

 "It's the social aspect. I stop out here first thing in the morning, have coffee, catch up on current events and what is going on in the community," said Jim of the morning coffee routine he's kept nearly all his adult life.

 Brian Heinecke, agrees. A Sisseton crop and livestock farmer, Heinecke has been going to coffee with his dad, Richard, for as long as he can remember.

 Typically, the men meet up at a local C-store, but a few years back, when Richard was undergoing chemo and was confined to a wheelchair, a few guys would meet up in the Heinecke's kitchen.

 "It really meant a lot to dad. We're a small community where everyone checks in on everyone."

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Last Modified: 02/05/2018 9:14:10 am MST

S.D. Farmers Union Urges Leadership to Vote with Senators Thune & Rounds to Make Section 199A of Tax Code Permanent

January 29, 2018

South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke urges Congressional leadership to follow Senators Thune and Rounds' lead and vote to make section 199A of the tax code permanent.

"As it is written, section 199A is scheduled to sunset in 2025 - it needs to be permanent if our farmers and cooperatives are to remain competitive in the global marketplace," Sombke said.

Under previous tax law, farmers using Sec. 199 were entitled to a deduction of up to 9 percent of net farm income. The overall limit was 50 percent of wages paid and a final limit of taxable income. It could not create a net operating loss.

"The Section 199A deduction is designed to level the playing field between corporations-which are now taxed at 21 percent while pass-through farmers, would be taxed at 37 percent," Sombke said. He added that corporate tax rates are now permanent, while rates for individuals and other small businesses, including co-ops, is temporary.

"199A expires in 2025. The goal of the current negotiations is keep the competitive balance," Sombke said. "Returning to Sec 199 is not an acceptable outcome, it must be enhanced to maintain the balance. There is no reason businesses of all types get a boost from reform, but coops must maintain what they previously had. Congress must also make Sec. 199A permanent."

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Last Modified: 01/29/2018 10:41:14 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Christensen Ranch Family

January 29, 2018

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

 Recalling his youth, Wessington seedstock producer, John Christensen says school wasn't really his thing.

 His lack of interest didn't go unnoticed.

 "My teacher caught me staring out the window one day, I was probably daydreaming about cattle. She moved my desk to face the wall. To this day, I can still see those gray boards of that one-room schoolhouse," says the 64-year-old.

Classroom learning may not have captured John's attention - cattle genetics on the other hand - for more than 50 years, they have driven an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

 "Cattle are my life," John explains. "I've been making the mating decisions for this herd since I was 11."

 His passion is most obvious when you're among the offspring. Point to any yearling bull or heifer in John's winter feedyard and he recites their genetic strengths and bloodlines.

 Calving out 600 cows most years, if John needs a reminder, he simply pulls out a worn calving notebook from his shirt pocket. He's been keeping careful calving records since childhood. "I have only lost one book in all these years. I have 50 years-worth of books saved," he explains.

 Although maintaining pen and paper records may be a bit old fashioned, it is not an indicator of John's attitude toward technology and genetic tools.

 In the mid-'60s his dad, Jens, was among South Dakota's early adopters of AI (artificial insemination). At 14, John went to AI school.

To read more, click here 

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Last Modified: 01/29/2018 10:26:16 am MST

Farmers Union Opposed to Repeal of Tax Provision for Co-ops

January 29, 2018

Efforts by U.S. senators to reform a tax provision passed into law December 2017 may not be in the best interest of farmers or the viability of cooperatives, said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 The provision in question involves Section 199 of the tax code which applies to agricultural products marketed through cooperatives. Section 199 allows cooperatives to keep a tax deduction or pass it through to their farmer members.

 Under the new tax code, passed Dec. 2017, farmers can deduct up to 20 percent of their total sales to a cooperative to offset the loss of the previous Section 199. Private businesses get a tax benefit from a lower tax rate and a lower corporate tax. 

Before taking a position, Sombke took the time to visit with leadership from a traditional South Dakota cooperative (one where all patrons who do business with the cooperative receive patronage) and a closed cooperative (where patrons have to meet specific qualifications in order to receive dividends).

 "My understanding is, this newly passed cooperative tax reform measure is unclear how it will affect our cooperative and their members," Sombke explains. "The only way we will support further action on Section 199 is to see it revised to the way it was prior to December 2017 or left alone. Anything else puts our farmers and cooperatives' tax position in jeopardy."

 Sombke said he is aware that Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) are working on a solution, collaboratively.

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Last Modified: 01/29/2018 7:53:49 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Calls USDA Report on Agriculture and Prosperity a Missed Opportunity

January 18, 2018

Calling it a "swing and a miss," the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) criticized a recent report by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in an editorial published this week in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader for failing to highlight the critical role of agricultural derived ethanol.

 According to SDFU President Doug Sombke, the report references renewables but  does so in the most general way imaginable, and lumps the need to produce renewables in rural America with coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power.  The word ethanol  is not mentioned despite the fact that it is a multi billion dollar domestic industry and in South Dakota alone it contributes nearly four billion dollars to the state's economy

 "Agriculturally derived biofuels, primarily ethanol, have single-handedly reversed a decades long trend of rising oil imports and a staggering flow of American dollars to foreign countries that support drugs, terrorism, and other activities. While we are struggling to see commodity prices above the cost of production, I shudder to think of where we would be without the 15 billion gallon ethanol market,"  said Sombke .

 Sombke noted that the report failed to not only pinpoint the contributions to date but the untapped potential of the future.  "Ironically, the report keys on the need for regulatory reform in order to "unleash the potential" of rural America when there is no industry held back more from expansion than ethanol.  We need USDA to lead the charge to break down the barriers at EPA and let us grow this market," he said. 

 "We can thrive in a free market if given access and we can play a key role in protecting public health through higher blends like E20, E25, and even E30."

 To Read the Full editorial, click here (LINK:

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Last Modified: 01/18/2018 10:51:41 am MST

Torchbearers Youth Leaders Recognized with 2017 S.D. Farmers Union Torchbearer Award During State Convention

December 21, 2017

A group of devoted Farmer's Union campers were recognized for their commitment to community involvement and leadership development with the Torchbearer Award during an awards luncheon hosted at the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention held in Huron, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2017.

 For campers, receiving the Torchbearer Award symbolizes the highest level of achievement for the South Dakota Farmers Union Education Program. This award is given once the camper has reached five years of committed service, showcasing the time and dedication campers have committed over the past years to the education department, as well as the rural communities they have served.

Continuing the tradition of S.D. Farmers Union Camp is often times a priority for youth who are eligible for the Torchbearer Award.

  "Torchbearers have taken the time and effort to follow the path many have set before them," said Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director.  "For years Farmers Union has been committed to educating youth on legislation, cooperation and leadership. Many of the Senior Youth have had family members go through the program and the goal is that they continue on, that this ceremony is the foundation to build and challenge themselves to meet the next steps in Farmers Union such as Young Producers group, becoming a County or District leader, and many other opportunities.."

 The 2017 Torchbearers include: Jim Brockel, Shadehill, son of Kelvin and Jean Brockel; Skylar Cox, Fredrick, daughter of Jeff Cox; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney, son of LaRon and Roxann Gerlach; Jennifer Hanson, Britton, daughter of Lorrie Hanson; Marissa Holinka, Watertown, daughter of Rick and Gwen Holinka; Brenna Johnson, Groton, daughter of Chad and Michelle Johnson; Haley Keizer, Plankinton, daughter of Lance Keizer and Miranda Keizer; Taylin Montague, New Underwood, daughter of Brad and Lawonza Montague; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota, son of Darin and Lisa Nugteren; Jackie Nuss, Tripp, son of Jarrod and Ronda Nuss; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen, daughter of Kirk and Kim Schaunaman; Samuel Schumacher, Mt. Vernon, son of Greg and Sherry Schumacher; Hannah Sumption, Fredrick, daughter of Eric and Stacey Sumption; Rowdy Thompson, New Underwood, son of Dana and Roxona Thompson; and  Gabriella Weidenbach, Canistota, daughter of Joel and Becky Weidenbach.

A group of devoted Farmer's Union campers were recognized for their commitment to community involvement and leadership development with the Torchbearer Award during an awards luncheon hosted at the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention held in Huron, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2017. 

 Left to Right: Back Row: Skylar Cox, Frederick; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Jennifer Hanson, Britton. Front Row: Rachel Haigh-Blume, Samuel Schumacher, Mt. Vernon; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Hannah Sumption, Frederick; Haley Keizer, Plankinton; and Gabriella Weidenbach, Canistota. Not pictured: Jackie Nuss, Tripp; Taylin Montague, New Underwood; Rowdy Thompson, New Underwood.

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Last Modified: 12/21/2017 7:35:23 am MST

South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers will Serve as 2018 National Farmers Union Convention Delegates

December 21, 2017

During the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, members were given the opportunity to campaign and be elected to represent South Dakota as a delegate to the 2018 National Farmers Union Convention held in Kansas City, Missouri, March 4-6, 2018.

 Delegates adopt policy and special orders of business that will guide Farmers Union government affairs priorities over the course of the next year.

 This year's delegates will be Tammy Basel, Meade County; Bill Chase, Beadle County; Lorrie Hanson, Marshall County; Jeff Kippley, Brown County; Becky Martinmaas, Faulk County and Hank Wonnenberg, Gregory County. 

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Last Modified: 12/21/2017 7:33:19 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Bisgard Farm Family

December 21, 2017

by Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 Seed cleaning has been a part of the Bisgard family farm operation since Herbert Bisgard constructed a cribbed elevator in the middle of the farmyard more than 60 years ago.

 "We cleaned everything. Anything that was brought to us - flax, millet, oats, rye - in those days it was mostly small grains," recalls his son, Peter Bisgard, 63, a third-generation Day County farmer who raises wheat, corn, soybeans and some registered seed with his sons and wife, Leah. The Bisgards also have a daughter, Stacy Anderson.

 Remember, this was before the days of traited seed when most farmers harvested their own seed to plant the following year.

 Today, Peter and his sons, Bob, 37, and Randy, 32, continue to clean seed for neighbors to supplement the farm's income. But, like most things on their family's farm, the seed cleaning business looks different than it did when Peter was a kid.

 "Of course things have changed. Back then, most grain was brought in on 4-wheel trailers or pickup trucks. Today we only see semis," Peter explains.

 Technology and the weather have impacted the overall farming operation as well. In the 1990s, water began to take over farmground.

 "We have a picture of Randy on a tractor and drill in a field where people now fish," Peter says of Bitter Lake, a non-meandered body of water, which was farm and pastureland in the 1970s but today has recorded depths of 18-feet.

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