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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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Strong Relationships Matter To Farmers Union Insurance Agent Kasey Keller

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Strong relationships are at the core of what it means to be a good insurance agent, explains Kasey Keller, the Rapid City Farmers Union Insurance Agent.

 "Ninety percent of being in the insurance business is relationship-based and the other 10 percent is having the guts to ask your friends and family to trust you," explains Keller, who says it's the products that give him the confidence to sell insurance to those he cares about most.

 "I was born and raised in Rapid City. So, many of my customers are family or friends I grew up with. They trust me to provide them with products that will protect them if the worst happens," he says. "The companies we work with are strong and proven."

 Throughout his eight years of selling insurance, Keller has witnessed the products he sells stand up to their promises. "A worst-case scenario, like a house fire, is a tragic event to go through with a client. Regardless of how much money they receive from insurance, there are items like photos that you cannot replace. But, being able to see clients get compensated and be able to rebuild a new home for their family was rewarding. It made me know that I made the right decision."

 Keller became an insurance agent four years after he graduated from South Dakota State University. He spent those four years working in banking, when he realized there were no jobs available where he could put his recreation management degree to work.

 "I wasn't happy in the banking world and decided I wanted to work for myself," he explained. "Our clients know that I take their trust to heart. And, once they do business with me, I am here for the long haul."

 In 2013, following the birth of their son Noah, his wife, Jessi, joined the agency. "We are a team. This is our family business and we are committed to service and working hard for our clients," Keller says.

 Kasey's team is now comprised of he and his wife, who are both agents, Brandon Peterson, a producer who joined them in the winter of 2018 and Kris Bourque, office manager who joined the team in the fall of 2017.

 Kasey was recognized for his service to customers during the 2018 State Farmers Union Convention.

 To contact Kasey Keller, call 605-343-4213 or email farmersunion@kelleragency.biz.

Kasey Keller, Rapid City Farmers Union Insurance Agent, with his wife, Jessi and children, Finley, 3 and Noah, 6.

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Strong Relationships Matter To Farmers Union Insurance Agent Kasey Keller

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Strong relationships are at the core of what it means to be a good insurance agent, explains Kasey Keller, the Rapid City Farmers Union Insurance Agent.

 "Ninety percent of being in the insurance business is relationship-based and the other 10 percent is having the guts to ask your friends and family to trust you," explains Keller, who says it's the products that give him the confidence to sell insurance to those he cares about most.

 "I was born and raised in Rapid City. So, many of my customers are family or friends I grew up with. They trust me to provide them with products that will protect them if the worst happens," he says. "The companies we work with are strong and proven."

 Throughout his eight years of selling insurance, Keller has witnessed the products he sells stand up to their promises. "A worst-case scenario, like a house fire, is a tragic event to go through with a client. Regardless of how much money they receive from insurance, there are items like photos that you cannot replace. But, being able to see clients get compensated and be able to rebuild a new home for their family was rewarding. It made me know that I made the right decision."

 Keller became an insurance agent four years after he graduated from South Dakota State University. He spent those four years working in banking, when he realized there were no jobs available where he could put his recreation management degree to work.

 "I wasn't happy in the banking world and decided I wanted to work for myself," he explained. "Our clients know that I take their trust to heart. And, once they do business with me, I am here for the long haul."

 In 2013, following the birth of their son Noah, his wife, Jessi, joined the agency. "We are a team. This is our family business and we are committed to service and working hard for our clients," Keller says.

 Kasey's team is now comprised of he and his wife, who are both agents, Brandon Peterson, a producer who joined them in the winter of 2018 and Kris Bourque, office manager who joined the team in the fall of 2017.

 Kasey was recognized for his service to customers during the 2018 State Farmers Union Convention.

 To contact Kasey Keller, call 605-343-4213 or email farmersunion@kelleragency.biz.

Kasey Keller, Rapid City Farmers Union Insurance Agent, with his wife, Jessi and children, Finley, 3 and Noah, 6.

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Farmers, Ranchers & Ethanol Supporters Advocate for Agriculture in Pierre

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More than 65 farmers, ranchers and ethanol supporters gathered in Pierre today, (February 19, 2019) to advocate for agriculture and issues impacting the families and communities which support our South Dakota's number one industry as part of South Dakota Farmers Union 2019 Legislative Day.

 "For more than a century, our organization has worked to ensure South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers' voices are heard by state and national policymakers," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and fourth-generation Conde farmer. "Grassroots policy development is a large focus of South Dakota Farmers Union, and it's the reason, many of our more than 16,000 members belong to this organization."

 Truthful labeling of petri-dish protein, support for rural, elder care facilities, industrial hemp and E30 top the list of topics the group discussed with legislators.

 "Legislative Session is when we need to have our voice heard, because this is when decisions are made. There are several new legislators, recently elected, who we need to get to know. It's important that they have the opportunity to meet farmers and ranchers to learn about their farming or ranching operations, so they can gain a clear understanding of how the decisions they make in Pierre impact our lives and livelihoods," Sombke said. "And, like when I first started out in early 80s, times are tough again in agriculture. Our legislators need to gain an understanding of what 'tough' means, and, learn what they can do to help us."

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Young Advocates for Agriculture & The Next Generation of Leaders

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By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

Her blue corduroy FFA jacket is a conversation starter, explains South Dakota State FFA Secretary Marie Robbins.

"When we travel for chapter visits, we typically eat in small town diners. We're wearing our official dress and many former FFA members will come up and visit with us about their FFA experience," explains the South Dakota State University freshman.

Together with her five teammates, Robbins traveled the state of South Dakota this year to meet with the more than 4,000 junior high and high school members who make up the South Dakota FFA Association. Established in 1928, FFA is a premier youth organization that prepares members for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.

Robbins' teammates include: Colton Riley, President, Rapid City; Sarah Kroeger, Vice President, Lennox; Grady Gullickson, Treasurer, Flandreau; Carolyn Blatchford, Reporter, Brookings; and TJ Bigge, Sentinel, Parkston.

During FFA month each February, S.D. Farmers Union celebrates South Dakota FFA by highlighting the current South Dakota FFA state officer team.

State FFA officers are selected by a nominating committee during the state FFA convention each spring. These college freshmen and sophomores spend the next 12 months advocating for agriculture and developing teen leaders throughout the state.

While attending college, they host leadership camps and workshops, meet with industry leaders and visit most of the state's 82 FFA chapters.

"We are always working to exceed expectations," Robbins says. "Agriculture is our state's No. 1 industry, and advocating for it is important because, we need it. It is something that cannot go away because we need it to feed everyone. Not everyone is a farmer, that is why we need sustainable agriculture."

Growing up, Robbins learned a lot about agriculture and FFA from her dad, Dan. "My dad is an agriculture education teacher. So, I knew I was going to be in FFA since I was in the third grade," she explains.

Although her dad got her started in FFA, it was the friendships she made with members from across the state that kept her involved.

"Whenever I would go to an FFA event, I would look forward to seeing friends," says Robbins, who graduated from Elkton High School in a class of 31. "Many of my FFA friends ended up going to SDSU. College is such a big adjustment, it was nice to have that foundation of friends started so I was not swimming in a big ocean alone."

And, she says FFA gave her a strong communications background.

"Through leadership development events, like public speaking, extemporaneous speaking and job interview, I gained a lot of communication skills and confidence. As a college student, these skills give me the confidence to reach out to professors with questions and be clear in emails. I've also learned how to interact with different communication styles," Robbins says.

When it comes to college, her teammate Colton Riley says FFA played a large role on the college major he chose. The agriculture education major explains that prior to joining FFA his freshman year of high school, he was considering a career as a biologist. Then, he got to know his FFA advisers.

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Legislators Need to Move Forward on Industrial Hemp Legislation

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South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) strongly encourages South Dakota's legislative body to continue discussions on House Bill 1191, which legalizes raising industrial hemp across the state.

 The 2018 farm bill legalized growing industrial hemp at the federal level, now it's up to individual states to determine if they will legalize it or not.

 "This is a timely issue that cannot be tabled because it keeps South Dakota's farmers competitive with the rest of the nation," explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde farmer. "Our neighbors, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, have already made it legal for their farmers to grow industrial hemp. We don't want South Dakota's farmers left behind."

 Sombke is responding to the February 8, 2019 request Governor Noem made to legislators to table HB1191.

 Representative and Minority Whip, Oren L. Lesmeister who represents District 28A, is the author of House Bill 1191. The Parade rancher introduced the bill because he sees industrial hemp as a hardy crop, ideally suited to growing conditions on both sides of the river.

 "This is an opportunity for South Dakota farmers to plant a low-input crop that is vigorous, returns nitrogen to the soil and crowds out weeds," Lesmeister explains, of the bill which came out of the House Ag Committee unanimously in favor to pass the bill. "I'm confused by Governor Noem's request for us to table this item when all the members of the Ag Committee passed this."

 SDFU encourages South Dakotans to reach out to their representatives asking them to continue discussions on HB1191.

 "This is good for agriculture. And, in South Dakota where agriculture is our number one economic driver, if it's good for agriculture, it's good for South Dakota," Sombke said. "If our legislators grant Governor Noem's request, they will leave South Dakota farmers with less opportunity than neighboring states who are already poised to take advantage of this new opportunity, created by 2018 federal farm bill."

 Noem's request to legislators to table industrial hemp bill

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Gov. Kristi Noem is asking lawmakers to shelve efforts this session to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp in South Dakota.

The Republican governor said in a Friday statement that South Dakota isn't ready for production of industrial hemp. Noem says questions remain about enforcement, taxpayer costs and effects on public safety.

Noem says officials need to see federal rules once they're issued and decide if hemp is as "promising as they say it will be." The governor's office says the crop isn't currently authorized for growth in South Dakota.

A House panel voted unanimously Thursday to advance a measure legalizing industrial hemp. Democratic Rep. Oren Lesmeister, the sponsor, says there's an industry ready in South Dakota to start processing hemp products.

The 2018 federal farm bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp.

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Young Producers Discuss Balance Sheets & What Makes Strong Community Leaders During 2019 Event

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Farm and ranch couples from across South Dakota gathered in Deadwood for Farmers Union Young Producers Event.

 "We invest in young producer events because the next generation needs all the resources and information they can get. Farming and ranching is a tough and challenging business," explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. "And, as South Dakota's No. 1 economic driver - the success of our state depends on these family farmers and ranchers."

 The weekend event was beneficial, says Matt and Stephanie Cavenee. The Miller farmers say they will implement the information they received on farm finances and transition planning.

 "Farmers Union had a good diversity of speakers providing us with expert views on a number of different topics," Stephanie says.

 Matt adds, "My dad passed away just a year and a half ago and I inherited the land, so I understand the value of estate planning."

 Blaine Carey, the speaker who discussed estate planning and balance sheets, explains that understanding cost of production is part of planning for life's "what ifs."

 "Hope is not a marketing plan," says Carey, who is an instructor with the South Dakota Center for Farm and Ranch Management at Mitchell Technical Institute.

Carey explains that understanding cost of operation is a key component to recovering a profit. "Changes in today's agriculture industry are the biggest reason for knowing your costs. Things are a lot tighter. The margins are not there."

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SDFU Celebrates Colome Farm Family

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by Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 According to Joel Keierleber, flexibility is the key to success on his and Audrey's Colome farm. "I am flexible and do what looks to be the most profitable way to use our farm ground," explains the third-generation South Dakota farmer, of the strategy that has kept his farm more or less in the black the last 40 years. "Instead of trying to get bigger, I work to add value to the acres I already own. This has been my philosophy all along." 

It's late fall, and Joel walks out into a field of cover crops to explain. "This was crop ground two years ago. Then, I put in cover crops and a good stand of alfalfa and hayed and grazed it this year. I will probably do that again next year. After that, it will go into corn." 

He doesn't plant just one corn hybrid. "I always have to try something different. I want to plant several and see what will do the best. Some guys are content to do the same thing over and over - even for generations - not me," Joel says. 

This mindset carries over to his cow/calf herd. In the early '90s he started finishing out his own cattle. But, if the feeder market was higher than fat cattle, he would sell at the feedlot. 

"I never have one plan and stick to it. I sit down and pencil it out to see what will be the most cost-effective way to farm. That is what I go with," he explains. When it comes to his family and his farm, Joel is resolute to "stick to it." "I knew I wanted to farm from the time I was 5," he explains. 

Growing up on a dairy farm near Clearfield, the fifth of nine children, Joel was driving the the pickup to help dad feed small bales before he started kindergarten. "Back then, you got started early. I also had the calf chores." 

After high school, he took a course in diesel mechanics and returned home to help his dad, who was in poor health. About that time, his older sister introduced him to Audrey, a college student. Her first teaching position happened to be in the area. Four years later, they were engaged. 

With a plan to save up money to buy their own farm, the couple eagerly anticipated their June 1977 wedding. Then, in March, Joel was in a serious farm accident - his arm was caught in a silo unloader. 

Joel was home alone and had to drive himself to the neighbors.' "I met him on the road. The son was in the National Guard and in the medic unit. They took me to the hospital, 25 miles away," Joel recalls. 

His injuries were severe. "They told me when I was in the hospital that I would never lift my arm above my head again. They told me to go back to school so I could get a desk job.”

But, Joel wouldn't listen. He was determined to farm. "I figured I had not failed yet. You have to fail two or three times to see if you can succeed." 

Read more here

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Strengthening Agriculture With the E30 Challenge

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Today, corn producers out-yield demand. What can be done?

"Use more ethanol,"  says Jim Seurer, during the 2018 State convention presentation to SDFU members.

And how do we increase ethanol consumption? The CEO of Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC had an answer for this as well- the E30 Challenge- a clever, consumer education campaign initiated by Glacial Lakes Energy with some financial support from the Urban Air Initiative.

The E30 Challenge is a marketing campaign launched in 2016 in Watertown to motivate drivers to try Premium E30. In return for every gallon sold, GLE donated 30 cents to the local Boys and Girl Club, up to $50,000.

At the same time, Glacial Lakes Energy shared testimonials from drivers who tried Premium E30. "We (GLE) can talk all day long, but if your neighbor says that had a good experience, that carries weight," Seurer says.

Today, consumption of E30 is up by 600 percent in Watertown.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Recognizes Youth Through Scholarships

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During the 2018 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention in Pierre, held Nov. 29-30, three college-bound youth were awarded scholarships.

SDFU annually gives recognition to young people who commit to a South Dakota college, university, or technical institute, and whose parents are current members of the Union.

Rachael Haigh-Blume, South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director, says, "Farmers Union starts investing in youth at age 5 and that investment is never ending as they progress through their education. We are excited for our youth as they transition into the next chapter and are thankful to continue our support for their future."

This year, the Leadership Scholarship and the Cooperative Scholarship, both $500, were awarded to Justin Goetz and Caleb Nugteren, respectively. The $500 Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Cassidy Keller.

South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke adds, "Supporting the future education of our rural youth is key to the future of our rural communities." 



Caleb Nugteren Cooperative Scholarship: Canistota, S.D. ~ McCook County ~ District II; Son of Darin & Lisa Nugteren. Future Plans: Attend BlackHills State University, major undecided.

Cassidy Keller Memorial Scholarship: Canistota, S.D. ~ McCook County ~ District II; Daughter of Chad & Mandy Keller. Future Plans: Attend a post-secondary institution majoring in Nursing.


Justin Goetz Leadership Scholarship: Selby, S.D. ~ Walworth County ~ District VII; Son of Trent Goetz and Patricia Pudwill. Future Plans: Attend a post- secondary institution majoring in political science and economics.

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S.D. Farmers Union Recognizes Cheryl Dethlefsen, Aurora County With Minnie Lovinger Award

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One-year-old grandson Carter Schnabel climbs onto Cheryl Dethlefsen's lap just minutes after the Aurora County Farmers Union Education Director received the 2018 Minnie Lovinger Award for her years of dedicated service to the grassroots organization's educational programming.

"I enjoy helping kids learn things about animals, farming and cooperatives," explains Dethlefsen on why she dedicates time each year to helping organize county camps. "A lot of the kids are town kids and don't understand everything about farming life. I want them to know a cow is more than meat and what the byproducts are. I don't want our kids growing up thinking meat comes from a grocery store."

Growing up on a farm near Woonsocket, Dethlefsen's parents were active Farmers Union members. Her mom, Pat Larson Carsrud, has served as an Education Director for 35 years."I have been involved in Farmers Union camps since I was five or six. 4-H and Farmers Union were the two main things we were involved in," Dethlefsen says. "All four of my kids have received their Torchbearer Award, and made lifelong friends through Farmers Union Camps."

She adds that her four children, Jared Hettinger, Gina Schnabel, Jackie Lindeman and Abby Dethlefsen, all gained confidence and developed public speaking skills by attending camps.

More about Minnie Lovinger Award
Established in 2004, the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation instituted the Minnie Lovinger Award in recognition of the founder of all Farmers Union education programs.

Minnie Lovinger passed away 70 years ago, but not before she laid the foundation for all subsequent Farmers Union education efforts. As historian Lyn Oyos wrote in his history of South Dakota Farmers Union, Minnie Lovinger "snatched the thorny chance and broke the trail that others followed. Her soul has never left them in their sowing and reaping."

This award is given to individuals who have made great contributions to the success and the longevity of the South Dakota Farmers Union youth program. 

SDFU Education Director Rachel Haigh-Blume presents Cheryl Dethlefsen, Aurora County Farmers Union Education Director, with the 2018 Minnie Lovinger Award for her years of dedicated service to the grassroots organization's educational programming.

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Suicide Among Rural South Dakotans is a Serious Issue

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Suicides among South Dakotans are on the rise, and farmers and ranchers are not immune.

"What is happening to producers is very serious," says Andrea Bjornestad, Sout Dakota State University Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Mental Health Specialist, during her presentation to family farmers and ranchers attending the 2018 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention.

She referenced 2017 data showing 192 South Dakotans committed suicide. And, although the state does not keep statistics on the careers of victims, due to the rural nature of our state, it is assumed that many of the 192 victims live in rural communities and may work in agriculture.

The reason the numbers are up? Bjornestad explained there are quite a few factors including chronic stress, limited access to mental health support and isolation.

"Agriculture sustains one of the highest mortality rates from chronic stress," Bjornestad says. "Suicide among farmers and ranchers is an international concern."

To prove this point, she showed the following data: * Australian farmers die by suicide every four days. * One farmer per week takes his or her own life in the United Kingdom. * One farmer dies by suicide every two days in France. * More than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995 in India.

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