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Meat Labeling, Premium E30, Climate Change - Join the Conversation During 2018 S.D. Farmers Union Convention

November 15, 2018

We may not have much control over the current markets. But, members of South Dakota Farmers Union,  do have a say in policy development that can impact future markets, says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director as she invites members and supporters alike to join the conversation during the 2018 State S.D. Farmers Union Convention held in Pierre Nov. 29-30.

 "We're a grassroots organization, so just like our policy, our convention agenda is also member-driven. We spend a lot of time listening to our members to help determine topics that will be discussed and who will be invited to present," explains Hofhenke.

 Timely topics highlighted during convention include: truth in labeling, climate change's impact on rural America's economy, mental health issues among agriculture producers and the success story of Glacial Lake's Energy Cooperative E30 Challenge program.

 Like so many issues this year, the USDA's discussion on whether or not to label lab-cultured tissue as "meat" directly impacts many South Dakota producers.

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Last Modified: 11/15/2018 7:18:30 am MST


SD Farmers Union Celebrates the Maher Ranch Family of Ziebach County

November 6, 2018

By Lura Roti, for SDFU

 Growing up one of 12 on a ranch north of the South Dakota state line, Mike Maher has many fond memories.

 "We did have a lot of fun. My brother next to me and I would hop on our horses in the morning and lope eight miles to help our cousins work cattle," says the third generation Ziebach County rancher. "We never knew what riding in a saddle was like - dad had the only saddle and we knew better than to touch it. We lived on a river, but none of us knew how to swim because our horses could swim. If we had to cross the river, Dad would always stand on the riverbank to make sure we all got across."

 It could have been memories like these that impacted Mike's decision to follow in his dad's boots after high school - even though there wasn't room for him on his family's ranch.

 He's not sure why he chose to be a rancher. But he does know this, "It's all I've ever done. And, I don't punch a time clock."

 His youngest son, Wade, 35, can relate.

 "I was working as a welder for the mines, managing a bunch of people who did not want to do their job and decided that I needed to get back to the ranch," explains Wade, who packed up his family and returned to ranch with his parents four years ago.

 Wade's parents met at a dance when Mike was working on a ranch near Isabel.

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Last Modified: 11/06/2018 8:37:46 am MST


Clean Octane Alliance Sees Open Road for Higher Blends - Efforts to Derail Regs Rule Successful

November 1, 2018

Lost in the celebration over the Trump Administration's recent announcement to allow year-round E15 sales was a decision by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that could have far greater impact on future ethanol demand, according to members of the Clean Octane Alliance a group recently formed by National Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprise, the Urban Air Initiative and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition to promote mid-level ethanol blends with a particular focus on the fuel economy and GHG rule proposed by the Trump Administration.

 "We certainly appreciate the Trump pledge to address seasonal restrictions on E15 but it is critical to make sure this vapor pressure relief applies to all blends above 10 percent given the limited demand E15 would provide and the fact that blends like E30 will provide substantially greater health benefits at lower costs," said South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke.

 Sombke, along with Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said an update to the master list of future federal regulatory actions called the Unified Agenda does not include a previously proposed rule that would make any blends above E15 illegal to use in conventional vehicles.  Known as the REGS (Renewable Enhancement and Growth) Rule, it would have codified a proposal that would have limited any future blends at a time when future vehicle efficiency requirements will need low carbon, high octane fuels that ethanol can provide in blends of 25-40 percent.  

 National Farmers Union and Urban Air Initiative led the effort to have the Renewable Enhancement and Growth rule dropped or modified and wrote then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt informing him National Farmers Union would challenge this provision in court if necessary. 

 According to Sombke, future demand from E15 will likely be slightly more than 1 billion gallons over current levels in the next five years. He argues that would represent a new corn demand of just 300-400 million bushels that is not nearly enough to turn around the falling farm economy.

 Moreover, said Sombke, the increase from E15 may not even cover the demand loss from the small refiner waivers being granted by EPA that have reduced the Renewable Fuel Standard requirements by more than 1 billion gallons. "I think the agriculture and ethanol industries were so focused on the Renewable Fuels Standard and related issues, that this provision limiting ethanol blends might have slipped by," Sombke said.  "At National Farmers Union we recognize the future is in much higher blends, which is why we were all over EPA to pull back this ill-advised rule."

 According to S.D. Farmers Union analysis, a new octane standard of 98-100, as is being discussed at EPA, could result in increased ethanol demand of 15 billion gallons and corn demand of 4 to 5 billion bushels.

 Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said ethanol blends in the 25-30 percent range can provide a significant octane boost and, more importantly, reduce the toxic carcinogens currently used by refiners to boost octane.

 "We are demonstrating the effectiveness of E30 across the Midwest and the savings to consumers while protecting their health is tremendous. We are showing that conventional automobiles are performing perfectly with this cleaner, homegrown fuel and EPA has no grounds to limit the amount of ethanol we can use," VanderGriend said.

 The Rule was moved from the pending action category to what they call "long term action," indicating it is unlikely to be brought forward. VanderGriend said they intend to monitor the situation but are encouraged that their efforts seem to have produced results.  

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Last Modified: 11/01/2018 7:32:07 am MDT


SD Farmers Union Testifies in D.C. for Truthful Labeling of Meat Today

October 25, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is deciding whether or not lab-cultured tissue should be labeled as meat.

Many do not support labeling foods produced using animal cell culture technology as meat. And, for good reason, said Eric Sumption, a Frederick cattle producer who traveled to D.C. to testify on behalf of his family's cow/calf and feedlot operation.

 "I believe it is wrong to label lab-cultured tissue as meat, because I understand the investment of time and labor that goes into raising cattle. My family and I raise beef cattle from birth through the feedlot. We care for them each and every day until we sell them to be harvested," Sumption explains. "The term meat is our brand, applied to a product that livestock producers, like me, my father, grandfather and great-grandfather worked for generations to perfect."

 Sumption is among four South Dakota Farmers Union members who traveled to D.C. to testify Wednesday, October 24 at the USDA headquarters.

 "All consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing," added Brett Kenzy, a fourth-generation cattle producer who operates a cow/calf herd and feedlot with his brother, George near Gregory. "My biggest fear is the day that lab-cultured tissue is mixed with fat from cattle raised in the traditional manner and the label on the package reads, "hamburger." If we don't maintain truthful labeling, how will consumers know what they are buying?'"

 Kenzy further explained that identifying a product developed in a petri dish or other media with the same label as livestock - cattle, pork, chicken, turkey, fish - raised and harvested in the traditional way, could dissolve trust between consumers and livestock producers. Trust, that has been earned over generations.

 "I am testifying because I question the integrity of our food labeling system based on past performance of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Today, foreign meats are labeled as Products of the U.S.A.," Kenzy said. "To maintain trust, the definition of meat needs to be restricted to animals that are born, raised and harvested in a traditional manner."

 The push to label lab-cultured tissue as meat has big money backing it. The reason? Corporations like Tyson Foods and Cargill have millions invested. To date, Tyson Foods invested more than $57 million and Cargill announced $72 million in funding.

 "By law, agencies like the Federal Drug Administration and Food Safety and Inspection Service have a responsibility to ensure true and accurate labeling of food products," said Rocky Forman, who is testifying because he understands how crucial accurate labeling is to consumers. His 4-year-old daughter, Mayli, was diagnosed Celiac disease.

 "It is my responsibly as her father to protect her. I can only do this if the Federal Drug Administration and Food Safety and Inspection Service do their job," said Forman, S.D. Farmers Union Member Services Coordinator. "Consumers trust that when they buy a product labeled as meat, it has been raised and harvested in the traditional manner - not at a lab in a petri dish or other media."

 Karla Hofhenke agreed. "The truth should be in the labeling," said Hofhenke, who is a fourth-generation South Dakota cattle producer and the Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 Hofhenke traveled to testify on behalf of the more than 17,000 South Dakota farmers, ranchers and their supporters who make up the grassroots organization.

 "The majority of our family farmers and ranchers raise livestock to be harvested for meat. Labeling animal cell culture products as meat would give the new technology an unfair market advantage, by letting them market on the reputation which producers have spent generations to create," Hofhenke said.

 Share your thoughts with the USDA

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration are hosting a joint public meeting/comment period to discuss the potential hazards, oversight considerations and labeling of cell cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry tissue now until November 26, 2018. Readers can leave a comment by visiting this online link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is deciding whether or not lab-cultured tissue should be labeled as meat. Four South Dakotans traveled to D.C. to testify that they do not support labeling lab-cultured tissue as meat Wednesday, October 24 at the USDA headquarters, (left to right): Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director, S.D. Farmers Union; Rocky Forman, Member Services Coordinator for S.D. Farmers Union, Eric Sumption, a Frederick cattle producer and Brett Kenzy, a fourth-generation cattle producer who operates a cow/calf herd and feedlot with his brother, George, near Gregory.

Brett Kenzy, a fourth-generation cattle producer who operates a cow/calf herd and feedlot with his brother, George, near Gregory testified before the USDA today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should not label lab-cultured tissue as meat. 

Frederick cattle producer, Eric Sumption  testified before the USDA on behalf of his family's cow/calf and feedlot operation that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should not label lab-cultured tissue as meat. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat. If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers' reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat - then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

Visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001 and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts.

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Last Modified: 10/25/2018 7:29:00 am MDT


Prime Rib from a Petri Dish???

October 18, 2018

By Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union & fourth-generation Conde cattle producer

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat.

 "Really?" you may ask. "This could mean that I could buy a product labeled as hamburger or steak at the grocery store and it could actually be tissue created in a lab from animal cells?"

 YES!

 If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers' reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat - then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

 Visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001 and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts.

 The comment period is open until November 26, 2018.

 This deadline brings to mind an American holiday with meat at the center of the dinner table - Thanksgiving. Just think, if we don't convince the USDA for fair and honest food labeling, next year's Thanksgiving turkey may have never gobbled. We could be sharing a meal of lab-cultured goo disguised as a turkey drumstick.

 All consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing and eating.

 And, South Dakota's more than 15,000 livestock producers should not have to give up their market-share to a lab-cultured product, that is labeled as meat.

 The definition of "meat" should be restricted to the tissue or flesh of animals that have been raised and harvested in the traditional manner.

 We believe this so strongly that we're going to DC to testify before the USDA. As a grassroots organization that represents 17,000 family farmers and ranchers, many of whom raise livestock, South Dakota Farmers Union sees this as our duty. We'll testify October 24, 2018. To follow our journey, visit our South Dakota Farmers Union Facebook page.

 The truth is in the labeling.

Courtesy of The Atlantic

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat. If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers' reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat - then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

Visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001 and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts

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Last Modified: 10/18/2018 7:22:09 am MDT


Growing Season 2018: What South Dakota Farmers Have to Say

October 16, 2018

by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Listening to farmers and ranchers from across South Dakota report on growing season 2018 begins to sound like the children's story, Goldilocks & The Three Bears - Too wet. Too dry. Just right.

 However, due to input costs, rental rates and low crop and cattle markets, regardless of how Mother Nature treated farmers and ranchers, this harvest, no one gets a happily ever after.

 "This growing season has a lot of different twists to it," explains Tabor crop and cattle producer Terry Sestak. "Policy has not been good, as far as helping the ag sector markets."

 And at 62, the District 1 Farmers Union board member says although he's farmed nearly all his life, he's never seen a growing season quite this wet. "It's been wet all growing season with really no dry spells to speak of in our area."

 Referencing southeast South Dakota, where days of rain delayed planting repeatedly, some fields never were planted and some that Sestak and his neighbors were able to plant ended up getting drowned out. As of Oct. 9, the rain has yet to quit.

 "I am looking out the window at a field that was preventive planting, that I was going to plant winter wheat into. So, I had it sprayed to kill weeds. Then, a 6-and-a-quarter-inch rain the week of Sept. 17 interrupted my plans," he says.

 But, Sestak says he remains optimistic that 2019 will be a better year. "Farmers are eternal optimists. It's good to keep a sense of humor and realize things could be much worse. I'm healthy. I have my family. And, we didn't receive the type of flooding they got on the coasts. That type of flooding not only destroys crops, but homes and kills livestock."

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Last Modified: 10/16/2018 7:29:41 am MDT


SDFU Applauds Decision to Provide Regulatory Relief to Higher Ethanol Blends: Officials call it an important first step

October 15, 2018

South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) called October 9, announcement by the Trump Administration to open the market to higher volumes of high octane, low carbon and low-cost ethanol an important a win for farmers, consumers and the environment.

 The decision to apply existing standards to these higher blends that lower vapor pressure is long overdue, said SDFU President Doug Sombke. "Higher ethanol blends reduce the very evaporative emissions this antiquated restriction was designed to control," he said. "Adding clean burning ethanol to gasoline replaces the toxic, cancer causing components used to increase octane. It reduces carbon emissions, particulates, and a range of harmful pollutants."

 While applauding the Administration's decision, Sombke cautioned that if the EPA attempted to limit the new rule to only blends of 15% it would be a major misstep and cause for serious concern to American agriculture.   

 SDFU is a supporter of the High Octane Low Carbon Alliance along with major ethanol and agriculture organizations and have argued for higher octane levels to help meet the pending fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas rule.

 Ethanol at volumes in the 25-30% range can provide low cost octane allowing automakers to design more efficient vehicles. "15% volume is a great start but certainly should not be a cap or any kind of limit at a time when automakers are acknowledging higher volumes can provide significant increases in octane that they can design to," said Sombke. 

 "The increased demand for South Dakota's agriculture products is critical at a time of low prices and fluctuating demand and higher ethanol blends could be the demand driver needed. In addition, the dramatic price differential between gasoline and ethanol provides substantial savings to all consumers. If nothing else this is a pocketbook issue and keeps money at home at a time of increasing world oil prices," he said.

 SDFU officials said they will continue to work with EPA and other interested parties as they finalize the rule lifting the restrictions.

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Last Modified: 10/15/2018 7:43:08 am MDT


South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Richter Ranch Family

October 3, 2018

By Lura Roti for SD Farmers Union

Neal Richter began helping his dad move cattle on the family's ranch near Enning when he was about 8.

"That was a bad idea because I was hooked," jokes Neal, 36, a fourth-generation cattle rancher.

"He always wanted to be on the ranch," explains his dad, Dick, 72.

In fact, so strong was Neal's desire to make ranching his life's career, that as a high school student, he took on extra classes so he could graduate a semester early to be home fulltime for calving.

"That first calving season, it happened to be a nice January and February, with 40 to 50 degree days. Calving was easy, I thought, 'this is great. The next calving season wasn't so warm, but I'm still here,'" says Neal, who graduated from Sturgis High School in 2000.

Although his formal education ended that year, Neal's intake of knowledge and information in regards to improving his and Dick's cattle herd genetics and management is a daily practice.

He reads agriculture publications, takes in seminars and workshops and works closely with local SDSU Extension staff. In 2010, he participated in SDSU Extension's first beefSD class. An intensive three-year program led by livestock experts and innovative South Dakota cattle producers, who provide cattle producers with research-based information on everything from improving genetics and cattle health to feed rations and grazing practices. Through beefSD, Neal was able to collect data on five of his calves - from weaning through the feedlot and on to processing.

"Ranching is just like other careers, there is always more information available to improve things, so I have to work to keep on top of it," he explains. "beefSD opened my eyes to how what is happening here on the ranch will impact what happens down the chain."

Among the management practices which have improved things is hay testing and supplementation. This was one of the topics covered during beefSD that made sense to Dick and Neal. So, today, the men have their hay tested to ensure they are feeding their cows a balanced ration. "We feed supplements as needed based on test results," Dick says.

The men market their calves at weaning, so birth weight and vigor are a large focus of their breeding program.

"We used to wean, feed and then sell," Dick explains. "In this country, we don't raise our own corn. Most of what we grow is to replenish hayground. So, when the calf prices started coming up, and we could make more money selling them right off the cow, without feeding them, that's what we decided to do."

And, according to the feeder/finisher who has been buying the Richter calves several Octobers in a row, they gain and finish well.

"The guy who bought them said 75 percent of them graded choice," Neal says. Although the same buyer bids on their cattle each year, when it comes to marketing their calves, the men are loyal to Ft. Pierre Livestock Auction Inc. "Marketing is a terrible big part of ranching. Even before Neal started ranching with me, I took the calves to Ft. Pierre and I thought they did a good job by me," Dick says.

Neal adds, "They have gotten to know us over the years. They know our brands and they will call us when someone is looking for the type of cattle we raise."

To read more click here

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Last Modified: 10/03/2018 10:31:38 am MDT


SD Farmers Union President Responds to United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

October 3, 2018

HURON, S.D. - When the news of the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico reached Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union, he was both relieved and saddened.

 "I am happy it is wrapped up, but disappointed there is nothing in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for family farmers and ranchers. We were expecting, after the President's campaign promise that he would reinstate Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), that this would be done during the renegotiation of NAFTA, and I was surprised it was not even addressed," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle producer.

 "It didn't change any benefits we already had in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), nor did it add anything. The fact is, wheat farmers in North Dakota and Montana are still only able to market feed-grade wheat to Canada. This trade agreement does not allow farmers to market food-grade, higher value, wheat."

 And, at a time when South Dakota's family farmers are really hurting, Sombke says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement does not offer any relief to the low commodity prices, gravely impacted by the current trade war with China.

Doug Sombke is the President of South Dakota Farmers Union and a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

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Last Modified: 10/03/2018 8:01:23 am MDT


Share Your Story Today!

September 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 Here's how to reach them:

Senator John Thune Phone: (202) 224-2321

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

Senator Mike Rounds Phone: (202) 224-5842

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

Representative Kristi Noem

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

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


South Dakota Farmers Union Recognizes Farm Safety Year-Round

September 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fly-In is Good First Step South Dakota Farmer Says

September 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


MEDIA NOTE:

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

 

Please remember to include your best call back number.

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

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

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


Patriots, Raise Your Voices & Fight for American Agriculture

September 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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


Farmers Share Lunch Educates More than 1,000 Consumers

September 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 4, 2018

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

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

 The team was recognized with a cash prize.

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

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

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

 Hoven FFA member, Peter Rausch agrees.

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

 

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


2018 Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship Winners Recognition Ceremony Sept. 1 at the South Dakota State Fair

August 30, 2018

The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation, in cooperation with Farmers Union Insurance Agency, will recognize the 2018 Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow scholarship recipients Sept. 1 at 10:30 a.m. on the Freedom Stage. 

Each of the scholarship recipients receive $1,000 to put toward their post secondary education at a South Dakota college, university or technical school.

Over the past 11 years, the Foundation has awarded more than $275,000 in scholarships to students attending South Dakota post-secondary schools.

The recipients were chosen from among a large pool of applicants. They were scored based on a combination of academic record, activities and awards, financial need and an essay relating to how they will "Insure a Brighter Tomorrow" in South Dakota. Farmers Union Insurance agents throughout the state fund this scholarship program administered by the Farmers Union Foundation.

"Our insurance agents are committed to building a brighter future in South Dakota," says Jason Wells, Regional Manager of Farmers Union Insurance Agency. "This is a remarkable group and they make me excited about the future of our great state. We're choosing to invest in these outstanding individuals to help them pursue their goals and aspirations." 

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Last Modified: 08/30/2018 7:55:09 am MDT


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