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Create Fair Markets Here at Home Says S.D. Farmers Union President

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In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.

“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.

Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.

“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”

And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.

In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.

“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.

Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.

“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”

And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.

Read Roger Johnson’s letter here:
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:

"Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.
“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.

“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union, visit www.sdfu.org.
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:

"Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.

“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.

“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

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

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S.D. Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer Receives National Award

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South Dakota Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer received the Best of National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Exhibits award during the 2019 NAMA Convention.

“Farm safety education has long been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union summer camp programming. Because of the mobile nature of the Safety Trailer we are now able to reach more youth, in more communities with farm safety education year-round,” explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union, one of South Dakota’s largest farm and ranch organizations.

When designing the 24-foot-long learning space, South Dakota Farmers Union invested in developing creative ways to provide hands-on safety training for high-risk farm activities. They teamed up with Insight Marketing Design to bring their ideas to life.

“It was a challenge to bring all these safety features to life in an engaging way. We loved working with the Farmers Union team to do this,” says Candy Van Dam, partner and chief strategy officer for Insight Marketing Design.

Designed for active learning, the Safety Trailer features an ATV simulator, miniature farm, grain ladder and safety harnesses and more.

“Judged against similar projects, the SDFU Safety Trailer won because of its well thought out strategy to reach rural youth and farm and ranch kids with safety information regarding some of the most dangerous things that can happen on a farm or ranch,” Van Dam says.

To date, more than 7,000 South Dakota youth have engaged with the Safety Trailer.

“Kids learn best by doing. So, we made sure the Safety Trailer invites them to engage in learning about farm safety,” says Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator.

Traveling to communities throughout South Dakota, Forman coordinates with 4-H leaders, FFA chapters, schools and other youth-based community groups to reach as many South Dakota youth as possible.

“Youth are our future, it is an honor when a national organization recognizes the work Farmers Union does to support South Dakota’s youth,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President. “And, whether they live on a farm or not, because agriculture is our state’s number one industry, there is a good chance they will visit a farm at some point, and they need to understand the dangers associated with farm machinery or ATVs.”

In addition to the Farm Safety Trailer, South Dakota Farmers Union also hosts an annual Farm Safety Quiz Bowl each year during the South Dakota State Fair, where FFA members put their farm safety knowledge to the test, competing for the championship title.

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union youth programming, visit www.sdfu.org.

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De Smet Farmers Represent South Dakota during 2019 Farmers Union Enterprises Couples Leadership Program

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De Smet farmers, Darcie and Rob Lee with their
children, 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old
Rosene. 

As De Smet farmers and young parents who also work off the farm fulltime, Rob and Darcie Lee say it’s not easy to make time for leadership development, but it’s important to their future, so they are making it a priority. The couple will represent South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) as members of the 2019 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.

“We can always come up with reasons not to do things. But we accepted the fact that there will never be a good time to give up five weekends, so we prioritized this and we’re going to make it work because it is worth it,” Rob explains.

And, the couple is fortunate to have grandparents living nearby to help care for 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old Rosene.

The Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program was developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training. Each year, one couple from each of the five state Farmers Union organizations which make up Farmers Union Enterprise, are selected to participate.

Throughout the 2019-2020 year, the Lees will attend five seminars. They will join with farm or ranch couples from North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“We are both excited about the networking opportunity to get to know other farm and ranch couples,” says Darcie, who is a nurse, working at Horizon Health Care Clinic in De Smet.

“There is value in being around like-minded individuals who you can bounce ideas off one another, and look at things from a different perspective,” says Rob, who along with raising crops, works as a crop insurance adjustor for Precision Risk Management. “We share the same interests and we are working toward the same goal, albeit on different farms – making a living from the farm and keeping it going for the next generation.”

Preserving the family farm for the next generation is a legacy Rob inherited from his dad, Roger. “My dad brought us up telling us, ‘don’t ever sell the farm.’ And, he has worked to pay down the land so that it’s a bit easier on me and my siblings,” Rob explains. “I catch myself thinking this same way and trying to figure out ways to pay off the land so that when Everett is old enough to farm, it’s easy going for him.”

Roger, who has been actively involved in SDFU for decades, introduced Rob to Farmers Union. Rob helped lobby Congressional leaders on behalf of South Dakota agriculture during the 2018 D.C. Fly-In and then took the policy advocacy skills he gained in D.C. and put them to work during SDFU Legislative Day in Pierre.

In addition to gaining leadership and advocacy skills to benefit their farming heritage, Rob and Darcie also enjoy the lifestyle they have living and working on their family farm. They value raising their children on the farm.

“I enjoyed my life growing up on the farm, I could just wander, and my parents knew I was OK. It’s nice to give our kids that kind of lifestyle too,” Darcie explains. “I enjoy seeing the world through our kids’ eyes. Everett gets so excited for the garden. He eats whatever we raise because we grew it in the garden.”

Recently, the couple diversified their farm when they purchased a small herd of alpaca. They plan to raise them for their fiber and provide Everett and Rosene with the opportunity to raise livestock.

Throughout their year involvement in Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program, the Lees will provide members with Union Farmer updates.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Freeman Farm Family

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South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s No. 1 industry and help feed the world. This month we highlight Mike Miller and Michelle Friesen. The couple have farmed together near Freeman since they married in 1996. They raise corn, soybeans, a cow/calf herd and feeder operation.

by Lura Roti for SDFU

Standing in their pasture, surrounded by cows with their new calves, Michelle Friesen points to a shelterbelt off to the southwest. “My mother grew up on a farm over there, about a year after my parents were married, my grandparents bought this place for my parents and they moved here,” explains the fourth-generation Freeman farmer.

Quick to point out that although she grew up on the farm and spends five days each week actively involved, farming is actually her husband, Mike Miller’s passion. Music is hers.

“My mother says that from 2-years-old on, I begged for a piano,” says Friesen, who is a soprano in the Sioux Falls Symphony Chorus and owns a piano studio, teaching 20 students each week. “I love music. It’s all around us. It’s everywhere you go.”

Before the couple married, she was living in Kansas teaching music and worked as the pianist for a junior college choir and Miller was farming fulltime. She knew marrying him meant she would return to farming, but she also knew he would support her in pursuing music and performing.

“Farming is his passion and this farm is more than what he can do on his own. So, as long as it works for me to do music and perform, I am available to help with farm work three-fourths time,” Friesen says.

Together, the couple raise corn, soybeans, a cow/calf herd and feeder operation. They lease some farmland and pasture from Michelle’s parents, Maureen (Hofer) and Marlyn Friesen, who retired in 2013.

Like Friesen said, farming is Miller’s passion. As a little boy, he remembers making the 50-mile drive from Sioux Falls to his grandparents’ Freeman farm each Saturday so his dad, Max, could help on the family’s farm and farm 80 acres he owned. After his grandpa, Edward Miller, passed away, his family moved to the farm fulltime.

“I always knew I wanted to be a farmer,” Miller explains.

“The family tells a story that one morning they got up and couldn’t find Mike. He was already on the tractor,” Friesen adds.

A while after the story took place, his family suffered a tremendous loss, when his dad was killed in a farm accident.

About that time, Miller began working for a local dairyman, Steve Friesen. “I worked for him all through high school and college. Before I even graduated from high school, he said, ‘you let me know if you want to farm, and I will help you get started,’” Miller recalls.

After college, he took over the lease on a quarter of land his mom, Marlyce, owned and began farming. Steve loaned him equipment and gave him advice. “I couldn’t have gotten into farming without Steve’s help,” Miller says.

“Someday, we’d like to do the same for a young farmer,” Friesen adds.

Conventional crop farmers, the couple implements outside-the-box thinking when it comes to managing their cow/calf herd.

“Efficiencies are the name of the game,” Miller says. “We calve half the herd in the spring and the other half in the fall because I have enough feedlot space for 120 head, but we calve more than 200 head. This way I don’t have to invest in larger facilities.”

Although it’s tough to juggle calving in the spring and fall during planting and harvest, typically, the weather cooperates. However, this spring, due to extreme moisture, Miller says planting is postponed, so they will have most of the calving done before planting begins.

They sell the feeder calves in January and May at auction markets in Worthing or Yankton.

“It’s good to be diversified so we aren’t tied to one commodity, and when that commodity is at a low, then you’re stuck. But, when you have some diversification, the highs in other areas can keep you going,” she says.

Miller uses forward contracting to market their corn and soybeans. “I don’t have to hit a home run, but I have to get on base. My object is not to hit the high of the market, but to avoid the low,” he explains.

Closely connected to their hometown and school, Freeman Academy, they are actively involved in their community. Together, the couple donates their time and equipment to farm a quarter of land that belongs to Freeman Academy. The money raised at harvest helps fund the local Christian school.

They serve as two of 250 Schmeckfest volunteers. Since 1959, Schmeckfest has been an annual festival/fundraiser for Freeman Academy, which serves kindergarten through high school. Running two weekends each spring, the event includes meals and a community play. This year, Friesen was the director of the musical, “The Boyfriend,” a 1920s-era romantic comedy.

“Growing up here I had a lot of people who did a lot for me. I believe in paying it forward and while I’m on this earth I want to be invested in the people who are on it,” she explains.

For more than 17 years, Miller has served on the board of Country Pride Cooperative, he is on the board of the South Dakota Cooperative Association and in 2018, he was elected to serve on the SDFU Board of Directors, representing District 1.

“The more I became involved, starting with our local cooperative, and the more I learned about agriculture in South Dakota, it made me realize, we need to speak up for ourselves,” he says. “We are only 2 percent of the population. Another reason to get involved in Farmers Union, because Farmers Union gives us a voice.”

To view more photos of life on Mike and Michelle's farm, visit www.sdfu.org.

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Celebrate Farm and Ranch Moms This Mothers Day

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As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother’s Day, South Dakota Farmers Union would like to celebrate the many women who support the state’s No. 1 industry – farm and ranch moms! By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union
Danni Beer 
“I think raising kids on the ranch provides them with a great work ethic. It teaches them so many life skills – you learn so much here. And, they get to grow up see­ing their mom and dad working together. A lot of kids don’t get to see that – for better or worse, our kids see everything.”
— Danni Beer, Keldron, rancher & mother of four


Courtesy photo
Danni Beer Family: Back: Sheldon & Bobbi Froelich, Danni, Mike, Bailie Beer, Carter Honeyman, Bo Beer Front: Blaze Beer, Dogs: Bear & Truman. 

The only constant is change. And, for Keldron rancher, Danni Beer, that’s a good thing.

“Everything is constantly changing. If your operation isn’t changing with the times, or your family isn’t moving forward, something’s wrong,” explains Beer, 48. “I want to make sure the cattle industry stays progressive, not regressive or reactive. I want the same for my family.”

Beer, together with her husband, Mike, and oldest son, Bo, raise cattle and crops on the family’s ranch 20 miles southeast of Lemmon. Growing up on a ranch just across the North Dakota line, Beer always enjoyed ranch work. She knew she wanted to remain in the agriculture industry and pursued an agriculture education degree at South Dakota State University. She also knew she wanted to raise her family on a ranch.

“I think raising kids on the ranch provides them with a great work ethic. It teaches them so many life skills – you learn so much here. And, they get to grow up seeing their mom and dad working together. A lot of kids don’t get to see that – for better or worse, our kids see everything,” says Beer, of their four children Bobbi Froelich, 26; Bo,25; Bailie, 22, and Blaze, 9.

Working on the ranch fulltime, other than a few brief years here and there, Beer says she has enjoyed watching their children learn and grow.

“I have always enjoyed watching them learn new things. And, there are sometimes when the kids teach us more than we teach them. It happens nearly every day with technology,” Beer says. “There are times when I watch my daughter, Bailie, do things on the ranch, and she does things the way I would do them. It’s like having someone who thinks a lot like you do.”

Reflecting on her parenting skills, Beer says she learned a lot from her own mother, Gloria Maher. “She is the perfect mom. She put her kids first in everything. She supported my dad and us kids in everything we did.”

Beer worked to do the same. “Sometimes you just have to drop everything and get them to their activity. And, sometimes they have to learn you can’t do everything. You have to say, ‘no’ to some things,” she says.

In addition to ranch work and children, Beer also gives of her time to the cattle industry. She helped found the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and served as its president 2014-2016. She remains active in the organization as a board member. “Getting involved in the agriculture industry off the farm or ranch is something you need to do to help direct the future,” she says.

Discussing the future, she says as a mom, she’s enjoyed every stage of her children’s lives. “When the kids were little, helping them with things and now that some are adults, interacting with them as adults.”
Janet Kolousek
“I always thought it would be wonderful to raise
the kids in the country because I felt it taught them
about nature and responsibility.”
— Janet Kolousek, Wessington Springs, farm wife and mother of three

Courtesy photo
Janet Kolousek family: Back row: Amber and Scott (son), daughter Laura, daughter Leah and her husband Jared Richter. Middle: Ella, Abby, Jacob (now deceased), Isaac (Scott’s kids); Shea and Caleb (Leah’s kids). Front: Ed and Judy Carter (Janet’s brother), Janet’s mom Goldie Carter, Janet and Dick Kolousek.
Even before she married a Wessington Springs crop and cattle farmer, Janet (Carter) Kolousek knew when she became a mother, she wanted to raise her children in the country.

“I always thought it would be wonderful to raise the kids in the country because I felt it taught them about nature and responsibility,” explains Kolousek, 67, who grew up on a diversified farm. “I have always enjoyed the wide open spaces and loved going out and hearing birdsong and seeing wildlife, being able to see the stars and moon at night. I just love the land. I love nature. I love creation. And, it’s easy to enjoy all that when you’re in the country.”

Together with her husband, Dick, she did get to raise their three children, Scott, Laura and Leah, in the country, on his family’s Wessington Springs diversified crop and livestock farm.

But, because the family needed health insurance, she used her education as a medical transcriptionist coder and worked fulltime off the farm at a local medical clinic, first in insurance, then as an administrative assistant and, eventually working her way up to serving as office manager for three clinics.

Reflecting on the busy years as a working mom, she doesn’t know exactly how she juggled it all. “Just like every other working mom, I just learned how to get everything done and keep up with the kids’ activities and job responsibilities.”

When the kids were too young to spend time on the farm without close supervision, Dick’s mom, Ione, watched them. “This helped immensely. I knew they were with family. I knew my husband was within a few miles if anything happened and he was needed. The kids got to help grandma with her garden, and with the chicken chores. They learned all kinds of things from Grandma and Grandpa, and that was great for them and for us.”

Semi-retired, today, Kolousek gets to spend a lot of time with grandchildren. Scott farms with Dick, and he and his wife, Amber, live just a half mile away.

“One of the best things about a family farming operation is that the people you work with have the same goals and dreams, and we all love and trust each other,” Kolousek says.

Two of her grandchildren do live in Rapid City, but when they visit, she makes time for all the cousins to play and work together. “I read somewhere that grandma’s is where cousins become friends.

“I think it is a real blessing. I know there are a lot of grandparents whose kids live so far away that they don’t get that quality time together with the grandkids to form that bond between grandparents and grandchildren,” she says.

Reflecting on her parenting years, she relied upon her parents’ example, advice from friends and her faith. “Prayer and faith were the main thing – and talking with other moms, asking how they dealt with this or that.”

Growing up, Kolousek’s mom made sure she and her siblings never missed church. As an eighth-grader, she began to play piano for her church, a tradition she continues today, playing piano for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

“Mom really taught us that you need to give of your time and talents – use the gifts God has given you for His glory.”

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South Dakota Farmers Union Encourages You to Read New Report Documenting Connection Between Toxic Fuel Additives, Vehicle Emissions and Human Health Threats

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The Clean Fuels Development Coalition released a report this week (May 7, 2019) indicating that the fuel we use in our vehicles may actually be killing us. South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President, Doug Sombke encourages South Dakotans to read the report and respond by fueling up with E30.

“E30 not only supports the state’s farmers through supporting the ethanol industry, but it replaces the harmful additives, used in gasoline, that this report indicates are cancer-causing,” explains Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer, who in addition to serving as President of SDFU also serves as President of Farmers Union Enterprises, a member of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition.

The report calls emissions from consumer gasoline one of the biggest health threats facing the American public. The report links a wide range of respiratory and even neurological diseases to toxic carcinogenic compounds refiners use to increase octane in gasoline.

“This research makes it clear that mobile source emissions are out of control—literally,” Sombke said. “Current EPA programs and models are faulty and fail to recognize the impacts of real-world fuels. If we did not learn anything from Dieselgate (the Volkswagen emissions scandal), when computers told us all is well when in reality, we were polluting the air, then shame on us because the same thing is happening with gasoline.”

The new Fact Book entitled What’s in Our Gasoline Is Killing Us:  Mobile Source Air Toxics and The Threat to Public Health is the result of research and review of hundreds of studies and medical and technical reports.  The Fact Book was produced by the Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC), in cooperation with the Urban Air Initiative.

The Fact Book documents the alarming rise in air pollution and the direct correlation to increasing concentrations of benzene and other toxic compounds in gasoline that have replaced lead. These compounds have been strongly linked to health issues such as cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, asthma, premature birth, low birth weights and even autism.

“Light duty vehicle exhaust emissions are the predominant source of hazardous air pollutants that represent an exposure risk to urban residents and anyone living near a major roadway,” said David VanderGriend, president of the Urban Air Initiative.   “These lethal pollutants can be directly traced to the 25-30% of gasoline additives that petroleum refiners use to increase octane.”

The primary carcinogen in gasoline is benzene, part of the family of toxics termed as “aromatics”.  Benzene is classified as a known carcinogen.  The American Petroleum Institute as long ago as 1948 testified before Congress that there was no safe threshold for benzene.  The other aromatic compounds in gasoline are toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene are suspected carcinogens.  This combination of aromatics is referred to as BTEX.

Download a copy of the Fact Book here, or request hard copies at no charge by contacting CFDCinc@aol.com.

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Farmers Don’t Have to Suffer or Lose Sleep – Ask Professionals for Help

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By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

If a friend or loved one has diabetes or high blood pressure and their current diet or medications aren’t working, you wouldn’t tell them to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it.” More than likely, you’d suggest they meet with their doctor.

The same thoughtfulness should apply when a neighbor or family member is struggling with anxiety or depression, explained Karl Oehlke, a Physician Assistant with Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates.

“You can’t just grit your teeth and bear it. If you have pneumonia, I will prescribe an antibiotic for you. If you have sleep disturbance, I will give you something for sleep. Farming is never without stress. Right now, farmers are faced with a lot of stressors out of their control, which may be causing bonafide anxiety or depression. A medical professional can provide medication or counseling options to help with that too,” Oehlke said.

Oehlke speaks from experience. He is a third-generation Hartford farmer. “I farm myself, so I know that typical stresses are heightened right now, with concerns over significant fall off in profitability caused by issues with China, flooding and drought. And, the loss of income is pervasive right now. It’s not just the row crop guy or the dairy guy, it’s everyone in agriculture.”

In fact, Oehlke is concerned enough over farmers and ranchers’ mental health due to magnified stressors, that he suggested Avera launch the Farmer’s Stress Hotline.

Completely confidential and free, farmers, ranchers, their family and friends can call in 24/7 to visit with trained specialists to better understand where they can go for help. The Farmer’s Stress Hotline number is: 800-691-4336.

“There is a level of trepidation about going to the doctor for anxiety or depression. And, if you live in a small community, maybe you go hunting or to church with your primary care doctor and you’d rather keep things confidential. Call the hotline and we can refer you to someone outside your community,” Oehlke explains.

A professional, Oehlke explained, can provide farmers or ranchers with the medicine and other resources they need to get a good night’s sleep or more healthfully deal with depression and anxiety.

“When I visit with farmers who call in, I hear the words, “fear” and “anxiety,” quite a bit,’” Oehlke said. “When you’re not making money, you start to lose sleep because you’re worried about getting the kids through school or, as a third, fourth or fifth generation farmer, you don’t want to be the guy who loses the farm.”

And, unfortunately, lack of profits is currently an issue for many South Dakota farmers and ranchers, explained Nate Franzen, President of Ag Banking Division of First Dakota National Bank. “If you look across the agriculture landscape, it’s been really tight, with low commodity prices, a lot of volatility in the markets and livestock. It’s a tough environment to make money,” Franzen said.

Two years ago, 52 percent of First Dakota National Bank’s agriculture customers made a profit. Whereas, four years ago 60 percent of agriculture customers made a profit. “Tough economic times in agriculture are tough on everyone. It not only wears on farmers and ranchers, it wears on lenders, and others who serve them,” Franzen said. “The ag industry is a close group of folks, with lots of great leaders. We will be fine as long as we lean on each other, and we are there for each other.”

Signs you or a loved one needs mental health support

So, how do you know if someone you know, or love is battling anxiety or depression? Andrea Bjornestad, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Mental Health Specialist shares some symptoms to watch for among family and friends:

  • Depression, hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from people or activities they ordinarily enjoy
  • Negative thoughts, including frequent talk about disappearing or death
  • Strong feelings of guilt or low self-esteem
  • Decline in hygiene or appearance
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Stockpiling medication
  • Easy access to firearms

And, Bjornestad said if you see the above symptoms or assume someone is struggling, don’t hesitate to get involved. “If you see someone struggling, socially withdrawing, behavioral changes, don’t hesitate to ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves,” Bjornestad said. “Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. You asking will not impact a person’s response or thoughts.”

Approaching a friend or family member to discuss their mental health is not easy, Bjornestad offers some advice for this as well. She suggests talking to the person alone and in a private location.

“It is important to describe any changes you’ve observed in the person and to let them know that you care about them,” Bjornestad says. “After describing changes, you may need to ask tough questions directly including, “Have you had any recent thoughts of death and dying?” or, “Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide?’” 

If the answer is yes, the following resources are important:

  • Help the person get immediate mental health assistance.  Offer options such as the Helpline (dial 211) or Farmers Stress Hotline numbers; call a family member to come help and potentially take the person to the hospital; call a local mental health crisis team; call for emergency medical services. Do not leave the person alone.

“Remember, there are so many things right now that farmers and ranchers cannot control. We can’t control the prices. We can’t control the weather. But you can control whether or not you reach out for help to treat anxiety or depression symptoms,” Oehlke said. “By asking for help, farmers and ranchers are not only helping themselves, but they can help those around them. As farmers, we may not realize how many people we touch. Not only the many people we help feed, but our friends and family members are connected to our actions as well.”

For more information, call the Avera Farmer’s Stress Hotline at 800-691-4336 or Avera.org/FarmerStress, or contact Bjornestad at 605-688-5125 or andrea.bjornestad@sdstate.edu.

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FUE Led Coalition Calls on EPA to Go Beyond E15

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HURON, S.D.  A broad coalition of farm, ethanol, and clean fuel advocates today called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open the market to a wider range of fuels in order to provide consumers with healthier choices.

 

Farmers Union Enterprises filed comments with EPA following the agency's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to extend the current reid vapor pressure allowance to blends of 15% ethanol in gasoline. While applauding the proposal, the commenters challenged EPA on their limiting the rule to just 15% and presented a detailed legal and technical argument as to why higher blends are permissible.

 

FUE President Doug Sombke said if the rule is finalized as proposed it would limit the broader use and availability of ethanol, contrary to the intent of Congress when it established several programs to cap toxic carcinogens currently in gasoline. Higher blends could achieve that goal, according to Sombke, such as E30 which has been successfully used in South Dakota and is planned to be demonstrated by both South Dakota and Nebraska state fleets.

 

The comments support EPA's finding that E15 is substantially similar to E10 in all respects but oppose the proposed requirement that any blend above E15 would be required to apply for similar approval.

 

""EPA continues to rely on outdated and biased historical models and studies that penalize ethanol," said Sombke.  "With the designation of E10 as a certification test fuel, the time has come to put ethanol on equal footing with other fuels and additives.  Higher volumes of ethanol reduce vapor pressure, dilute toxics and sulfur, and provide low carbon, clean octane.

The proposed rule does not meet the objectives of existing law, Congressional intent, and fails to recognize best available science."

 

Joining Farmers Union Enterprises on the comments are the National Farmers Union, South Dakota and Nebraska Farmers Union, Urban Air Initiative, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, and Glacial Lakes Energy.

 

"EPA is doing the right thing, but not enough of the right thing.  If we are forced to file new applications for higher fuel blends and wait nearly ten years like we did with E15,  the ethanol industry, and the agriculture industry that supplies it, will be severely damaged and is likely to never grow beyond the depressed levels we are seeing now," said Sombke.

 

Copies of the FUE Coalition comments can be accessed at the South Dakota Farmers Union website at www.sdfu.org. Comments can also be found on the National Farmers Union website at www.nfu.org, and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition at www.cleanfuelsdc.org.

 

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SD Farmers Union Meets with Leaders in D.C. to Advocate for Family Farmers & Ranchers

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HURON, S.D. – Presidents of South Dakota and North Dakota Farmers Union, met with policy makers in D.C. to discuss commodity transportation costs, crop insurance alternatives and renewable fuels on behalf of family farmers and ranchers.

“Times are tough throughout production agriculture, so we are working to do what we can to make a positive impact on policy for our family farmers and ranchers,” said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

Sombke explained that whether a family’s income relies on crops, livestock or a combination of crops and livestock, 2019 low market prices, combined with extreme weather events have a lot of farmers and ranchers anxious over the sustainability of their business.

“We’re looking at the third season of market prices that make it nearly impossible to bring home profits,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

Sombke was joined by North Dakota Farmers Union President, Mark Watne. During their time in D.C., the leaders met with the Service Transportation Board to discuss concerns related to increased commodity shipping costs.

“Rail transportation is becoming a large expense for farm operations, and farmers have no tools to pass this expense on. We met with the Surface Transportation Board today to get oversight on the monopolistic practices the rail industry is using, now that we only have four major rail companies in the U.S.,” explained Watne, who raises wheat, soybeans, canola and corn.

Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency (RMA) staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for RMA to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“The feedback we received was positive. Those we spoke with appreciated our outside-the-box thinking,” Sombke said.

During their meetings with congressional leaders, Sombke, Watne and Chris Christiaens, Montana Farmers Union Special Projects Director, requested their congressional leaders speak up for the disaster needs of family farmers and ranchers, and request financial assistance.

They also discussed recent Environmental Protection Agency interpretation of RVP rule. “Not only does it have a negative impact on the air we all breath, but it has a negative impact on the family farmers who depend upon ethanol demand for the corn they raise, but it has a huge impact on air quality,” Sombke said. “Higher ethanol blends means cleaner-burning fuel with fewer carcinogens. And, ethanol actually makes gasoline better.”

Looking back on the time spent in D.C., Sombke is encouraged. “I appreciated our meeting with Senator Rounds, he gets it when it comes to ethanol and gasoline blends. In fact, all the meetings were productive networking opportunities – perhaps we are one meeting closer to solutions that will have a positive impact on the family farmers and ranchers we serve.”

To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports family farmers, visit www.sdfu.org.

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South Dakota Farmers Union: Say No to E15 Rule Farmer Leader Says We Can Do Better

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On the eve of a public hearing to receive comments on the long awaited ruling to allow year round rvp relief for E15, the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) called the rule a backdoor effort to limit ethanol blends.

 In a call with supporters today, SDFU President Doug Sombke said the rule would limit the allowable volume to 15% when higher blends such as E30 significantly reduce vapor pressure and would provide far greater benefits in reduced emissions and displacement of toxic compounds refiners put in gasoline.

 "While we certainly want to see E15 in the marketplace we have the ability to produce and use far greater volumes. There is no justification for granting this waiver to E15 but not to E20 or E30, particularly given the successful demonstration of E30 we have seen here in South Dakota," said Sombke.

 Sombke explained that the U.S. EPA is relying on a complete misinterpretation of what is called the substantially similar (sub-sim) provision of the Clean Air Act. This requires additives to be tested and approved as not altering or affecting the characteristics of gasoline. SDFU and many others have previously appealed to EPA to recognize that ethanol is now considered part of the base, or certification fuel in the US and therefore is not subject to volume limits under sub-sim.

 The proposed rule by EPA would require blends above E15 to go through lengthy and costly testing that based on EPA's history, might never be approved. What makes this such a critical issue, according to Sombke, is the fact that EPA has granted waivers to the refining industry resulting in a demand loss of billions of gallons of ethanol and hundreds of millions of bushels of corn. E15 alone will never make up this loss in volume according to numerous private and government studies.

 "With regard to the proposed rule, this isn't a question of whether EPA is doing the right thing-it's a question of not doing enough of the right thing. More ethanol is better -better for everyone if we reduce the carcinogens in gasoline, better for the energy security of our country, and better for farmers and the rural economy. Don't limit us by unnecessary regulations that can easily be changed, " he said.

 Sombke also referenced several provisions of the Clean Air Act that clearly illustrated the intent of Congress to not limit ethanol blends, particularly with respect to displacing the cancer causing benzene and benzene derivatives in gasoline.

 "This is not that complicated-- Stop the waivers. Open the market to higher blends. Fix this rvp rule and recognize that all ethanol blend are an improvement over toxic gasoline. We call on farmers to join us and oppose this rule until they do so. Otherwise we are going to look back 10 years from now with a smaller share of the market and loss of demand for corn and ethanol and wish we had fixed it when we had the chance."

 If you'd like to comment on the EPA E15 ruling, visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0775-0002.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates Wessington Farm Family

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By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union 

 Breeding cattle with larger, more muscular frames is a Johnsen family tradition.

 "I grew up hearing genetic talk about how cattle finish and how cattle feed from my dad, grandpa and great-grandpa," explains Chris Johnsen, a fourth-generation Wessington cattle and crop farmer.

 And, even though the specific breeds varied, Chris' dad, Lynn, raises Charolais and Chris raises Simmental, the end goal remains the same. "Our family has always tried to stay away from smaller, more moderate type cattle because we've always believed that pounds sell. And, with a good frame, you are going to get more pounds of muscle."

 Chris sees raising more pounds of muscle per animal as his way of helping feed a growing population. "It's always been my goal to gain more pounds on the land I have," Chris explains. "I believe that as the world population grows, we as livestock producers need to produce more with the same amount of land. It takes the same amount of land to finish cattle at 1,200 or 1,300 pounds as it does to finish cattle at 1,600 or 1,700 pounds."

 To accomplish this, Chris works to improve not only his herd's genetics, but other cattle herds' genetics as well. The Johnsen family markets bulls and heifers.

 "We breed cattle that will be compatible for commercial herds. So, we are not targeting just one area. We try to fill a wide range of genetic needs," Chris explains.

Read more here

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South Dakota Farmers Union Disappointed with Noem's Veto of Industrial Hemp

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HURON, S.D. - South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, used the words, "a crushing defeat" to describe the South Dakota Senate's failure to override Governor Noem's veto of House Bill 1191, which would have legalized industrial hemp.

 As one of the state's largest family farm and ranch organizations, South Dakota Farmers Union lobbied in favor of House Bill 1191 because of the much-needed market opportunities industrial hemp would provide to producers on both sides of the river.

 "The failure of the South Dakota Senate to override the Governor's veto on House Bill 1191, is a crushing defeat for farmers and ranchers across South Dakota," said Sombke, also a fourth-generation Conde farmer. "It doesn't make sense.

Why would Governor Noem veto a bill legalizing industrial hemp, when as a representative, she voted for it in the 2018 farm bill?

When agriculture is our state's number one economic driver, this veto shows a lack of forward thinking.

Companies were ready to purchase South Dakota's hemp crop. This new crop would have provided new jobs and opportunities for South Dakotans during a time when many commodity markets are down, and family farmers and ranchers are looking for new opportunities.

It's a sad day when South Dakota's Governor's does not understand the differences between hemp as a viable crop and marijuana an illegal plant.

As one of the state's largest farm organizations, South Dakota Farmers Union will work to educate the legislature and the governor on these differences in hopes that an industrial hemp legislation will pass in 2020." 

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SD Farmers Union Urges Gov. Noem to Sign House Bill 1191 to Provide New Crop Option for South Dakota's Farmers & Ranchers

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South Dakota Farmers Union applauds the South Dakota State Legislature for passing House Bill 1191 today, March 11, 2019, and urges Governor Kristi Noem to sign the bill which legalizes raising industrial hemp.

 House Bill 1191 passed with a vote of 58 to eight with four excused. Currently waiting for the Governor's signature to become law, the bill supports the 2018 farm bill which legalized raising industrial hemp at the federal level.

 "Passing House Bill 1191 is forward thinking. If the Governor would sign this bill, it will open the door to processors and allow our family farmers and ranchers to remain competitive with surrounding states which have passed similar bills," said Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle farmer.

 Industrial hemp is a hardy, drought-tolerant plant, well suited to growing conditions on both sides of the river. Agriculture states surrounding South Dakota have already legalized raising industrial hemp, opening the doors for farmers and ranchers to explore production and marketing opportunities.

 House Bill 1191 incorporates nearly all amendments suggested by Governor Noem.

 "Montana farmers and ranchers are expected to plant 75,000 acres in 2019. It's the law in North Dakota and Wyoming's governor signed it into law last week. As an organization committed to supporting South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers, we urge Noem to sign the legislation which will put South Dakota on par with every surrounding state - maintaining a level playing field for our producers," Sombke said.

 

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Legislature Passes Senate Bill 68 in Support of Truthful Labeling & Livestock Industry

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South Dakota Farmers Union thanks the South Dakota State Legislature for passing Senate Bill 68 today, March 4, 2019. A win for South Dakota's livestock industry and consumers, the bill prohibits labeling cell-cultured protein as meat in South Dakota.

 "Senate Bill 68 sends the message that our state's leaders care about protecting our livestock industry as well as South Dakotans' right to know where their food comes from," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a fourth-generation cattle producer.

 Truth in labeling is a policy focus for South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU). In October 2018, the organization sent livestock producers to Washington, D.C., to testify before the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in opposition to labeling cell-cultured protein as meat. SDFU is among the state's largest family farmer and rancher organization.

 At the same time, SDFU launched an effort to educate their members and the general public on the potential dangers labeling cell-cultured protein as meat would have on consumers' right to know what they are eating as well as the devastating impact it would have on the state's livestock industry.

Senate Bill 68 sponsor, District 17 Sen. Art Rusch, credits SDFU's efforts with motivating him to sponsor the bill. He first learned about the issue by reading Farmers Union and the South Dakota Stockgrowers newsletters.

"I'm not a cattleman. I don't raise livestock. But, I think it is important that South Dakota take a position to protect our livestock industry," explained Rusch, a retired circuit judge and writer who represents Clay and Turner counties.

Agriculture is South Dakota's No. 1 industry. In 2017, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated livestock value of production in South Dakota at more than $2.8 billion (value of production is primarily derived from a market year average price multiplied by weight of animals marketed).

Senate Bill 68 passed unanimously. The bill reserves the term, "meat," to be used only for protein harvested from animal carcasses, by amending the adulterated and misbranded food chapter of the South Dakota Codified Law code section 39 - 4 to further define the term "meat." Read the complete amendment here: https://sdlegislature.gov/docs/legsession/2019/Bills/SB68SAG.pdf.

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National Farmers Union Recognizes Amherst Farmer Paul Symens with Meritorious Award

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National Farmers Union recognized Amherst farmer, Paul Symens with the organizations highest honor during the 117th National Convention held in Bellevue, Washington March 3-5, 2019.

The award for Meritorious Service to Farmers Union and American agriculture is designed to recognize individuals and families who have made a major contribution to the betterment of family farm agriculture through their involvement in the National Farmers Union.

"Throughout his adult life, Paul Symens has served South Dakota's family farmers, ranchers and rural communities. He made time for service, while at the same time, he was busy working with his family on their farm," explained Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

Not one to wait for others to do what needs to be done, Symens began serving South Dakota's agriculture community as a young farmer when his neighbor, who also happened to be the Marshall County Farmers Union President, was ready to step down from office. He asked Paul to run.

 "I agreed with what Farmers Union stood for and how they backed cooperatives and were involved in policy and rural communities," Symens said.

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Farmers Union Enterprises Launches Ag-Based STEM Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms

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Farmers Union Enterprises recently released STEM: IT AG, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curriculum focused on agriculture, food and natural resources for kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

 "Talk about making science relevant - all students eat," said Doug Sombke, president of Farmers Union Enterprises and South Dakota Farmers Union. "We are excited to share this curriculum which integrates STEM-based information into interactive units about agriculture and where food comes from with educators and students throughout the nation."

The curriculum is a joint effort between five Farmers Union state organizations (South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin), which comprise Farmers Union Enterprises, based in Redwood Falls, Minn. Farmers Union Enterprises partnered with the design group, STEM Fuse to produce and distribute the curriculum.

"Collaborating with the Farmers Union Enterprises team, we designed the curriculum to easily integrate ag-based STEM education in any unit teachers are focusing on," explained Carter Tatge, founder, and CEO of STEM Fuse. "You don't need a STEM background or an agriculture background to provide STEM: IT AG to students. In fact, the curriculum requires little guidance from educators."

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2019 National Farmers Union Convention: Grassroots Policy in Action

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Editorial Note: If you'd like to interview South Dakota Farmers Union members from your readership or coverage area during National Farmers Union Convention March 3-5, reach out to Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director, S.D. Farmers Union e-mail her at khofhenke@sdfu.org. Include your best call back number.

Grassroots policy development is the reason several South Dakota Farmers Union members will attend the National Farmers Union (NFU) Convention held in Bellevue, Wash., March 3-5, 2019.

 "Bringing our policy to the national convention gets results, because the policies passed during this convention are what the national lobbyists use as guidance when they lobby congressional leaders," explains Union Center rancher Steve Harwood.

 Harwood is one of six delegates elected during SDFU state convention, to represent SDFU policy during NFU Convention. The other delegates include: Becky Martinmaas, Orient; Cheryl Schaefers, Polo; Tammy Basel, Union Center; David Reis, Reliance; and Lorrie Hanson, Britton.

 Similar to state policy, but on a much larger scale, these delegates will work to make SDFU policy part of the NFU policy book.

 "Year-after-year, our delegates do a good job standing up for the common core of South Dakota agriculture and advocating on behalf of SDFU policy," explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President. "Many of us take for granted that the way we farm or ranch here in South Dakota is the same across the nation. And, what is important to us is important to all farmers. This is not always the case. And, this is the reason we make sure our state has solid representation."

 Learning about agriculture in other regions of the U.S. makes national convention interesting, says delegate and Reliance rancher David Reis.

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SD Farmers Union Does Not Support Brown Nomination to Farm Credit Administration Board

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South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President, Doug Sombke urges the Senate Agriculture Committee to stop the nomination of Rodney Brown to the Farm Credit Administration Board, which regulates the Farm Credit System.

 Brown is the immediate past President and CEO of the California Bankers Association and a past member of the American Bankers Association board of directors.

 "The reason I raise concern over Brown's nomination is his connection to the American Bankers Association," explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde, S.D. farmer who leads one of the state's largest farm and ranch organizations. "It's no secret the American Bankers Association opposes the business structure of the Farm Credit System. In fact, American Bankers Association lobbied Congress to change the structure of the Farm Credit System."

 Farm Credit System provides competitive banking and loan services designed to support young and beginning farmers and ranchers.

 Many family farmers and ranchers across the nation depend upon Farm Credit System and changing the structure could have a devastating impact on those families. "Farm Credit System has been a lifeline when it comes to the financial needs of family farmers and ranchers," Sombke said. "Considering the current tough economic situation facing those individuals and families working in agriculture, it is irresponsible to place Brown on the board because of his close affiliation with the American Bankers Association and that organization's known opposition of Farm Credit System."

 Contact the Senate Ag Committee

Sombke calls upon those working in agriculture and supporters of family farmers and ranchers to contact members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and urge them to stop Brown's nomination.

 "The Senate Agriculture Committee is responsible for giving advice and consent to the Administration's nominees, if they do not support this nomination, there is an opportunity for a qualified leader who has agriculture's best interests in mind, to sit on the Farm Credit Administration board," Sombke said.

South Dakota's Sen. John Thune can be reached at 1-866-850-3855 or e-mail him through his website at https://www.thune.senate.gov/public/.

 Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee include:

Senator Pat Roberts (KS)

Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI)

Senator Chuck Grassley (IA)

Senator John Thune (SD)

Senator Deb Fischer (NE)

Senator Joni Ernst (IA)

Senator Patrick Leahy (VT)

Senator John Boozman (AR)

Senator Sherrod Brown (OH)

Senator John Hoeven (ND)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Senator Michael Bennet (CO)

Senator Mike Braun (IN)

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA)

Senator Tina Smith (MN)

Senator Richard Durbin (IL)

 "Our President told us he was for the farmer. Rescinding this nomination would affirm his commitment to farmers and ranchers," Sombke said

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SD Farmers Union Calls Out GM on Weak Octane Proposals

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In a letter to General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra today (February 21, 2019), South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke challenged the automaker on its claim that 98 RON (Research Octane Number) or higher gasoline was not feasible and called on them to look at their own historical position of identifying 100 RON fuels as the right fuel for the 2020-2025 time frame.

Sombke took issue with remarks by GM's Dan Nicholson at the National Ethanol Conference last week where Nicholson said a 98 RON fuel was a bridge too far and cited numerous obstacles, all of which can be easily addressed according to Sombke.

With the Safe Affordable Fuel Efficiency (SAFE) rule currently being developed by EPA, the opportunity to raise the minimum octane standard and achieve significant mileage increases can be realized with a 100 RON/E30 fuel according to Sombke. Furthermore, he said the requirement that these fuels reduce carbon emissions is easily met with higher ethanol blends that are increasingly recognized as low carbon fuels. In his letter, he cited previous positions of GM and other automakers that a 100 RON fuel in optimized conventional vehicles could provide a 7% mileage increase while reducing CO2 emissions.

 "The internal combustion engine is going to be the primary propulsion technology for decades, and the octane in today's fuel is increasingly toxic and polluting", said Sombke. "Ethanol is the most cost-effective and cleanest source of octane available and automakers need to join us in calling for higher blends, not lower."

 In his letter, Sombke addressed a number of issues such as the ability of the industry to produce enough starch derived fuel, the emerging science showing improvements in carbon sequestration, and the ability to effectively distribute E30 blends.

He also cited the tremendous success of E30 tests and demonstrations such as the E30 challenge in South Dakota, and Governor Kristi Noem directing the state fleet to use E30. With millions of gallons sold and hundreds of thousands of trouble free miles logged, consumers are choosing this cleaner, efficient fuel mix, he said.

"We commend GM for being the first automaker to warrant ethanol blends, now it is time to help take the next step to doubling the current market for both corn and ethanol while helping themselves meet regulatory requirements."

 For a copy of the letter click here.    

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S.D. Farmers Union Awards $2,500 to SDSU Graduate Student

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South Dakota State University Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Sciences graduate student, Jasdeep Singh recently received a $2,500 scholarship from South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Foundation.

 "Our organization invests in students pursuing master's and doctorate degrees in agriculture because the future success of South Dakota's agriculture industry depends on the next generation of agriculture educators, researchers and professionals," says Doug Sombke, SDFU President.

 Singh's graduate research focuses on the long-term impacts of cover crops, crop rotations and conservation tillage systems on soil health, moisture availability and economic profitability in South Dakota.

 "Concerns regarding environmental quality and sustainable productivity of agroecosystems call for the adoption of conservation management strategies to safeguard soil, water and air resources," explains Singh. "Cover crops, crop rotations and conservation tillage systems are among the most promising conservation practices. This project targets the corn, soybean, oats and wheat producers in South Dakota."

 Singh hopes his research will encourage the adoption of conservation management practices and systems to improve soil health, environmental quality, moisture availability and grower profitability.

 More about Jasdeep Singh

Singh grew up on his family's diversified crop and livestock farm in India. He says it was by working with crops and livestock that he developed a passion for farming and desire to help the industry. "I started farming with my family when I was 10. Overall, I want to help the agriculture community by helping farmers be more productive," Singh says.

 After graduating with honors in agriculture, with a specialization in soil sciences, agronomy and agroforestry, from Punjab Agricultural University, Singh decided to pursue a master's and now a doctorate at SDSU.

 "I love working in the fields to understand site-specific needs of farms. I also enjoy interacting with farmers through outreach with SDSU Extension, seminars and workshops," Singh says.

Jasdeep Singh's graduate research focuses on the long-term impacts of cover crops, crop rotations and conservation tillage systems on soil health, moisture availability and economic profitability in South Dakota.

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