Doug Sombke was elected by the members of South Dakota Farmers Union to serve a sixth term during the organization's centennial convention held in Huron Dec. 9 and 10, 2015.
"I feel truly honored to serve the membership of this great organization - these are South Dakota's farmers, ranchers and rural citizens," explained Sombke, a fourth generation Conde crop and cattle farmer who has served as the organization's President since 2005.
South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, is concerned by the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to issue final renewable fuel volume targets which are well below their statutory levels.
"This is not good for South Dakota's family farmers and rural communities," said Sombke, a fourth generation crop and livestock farmer from Conde. "Since its emergence the ethanol industry has helped breath life back into rural America by increasing commodity prices and through the competitive jobs it has created."
South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Sumption Farm Family
By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union photos by Kaylee Speck Photography
Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, each month South Dakota Farmers Union highlights members who farm or ranch with their families. This December, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Sumption family who farm together near Frederick.
Mark Sumption’s 9-year-old daughter, Morgan, often asks him to tell her stories about his life as a child. Recently she asked him how he spent his time after school each day.
“I tell her that when I got home from school I went to work on the farm,” answers the fourth generation farmer.
His dad, John, says he and Margaret relied heavily on help from Mark and their other four sons, Chris, Eric, Taylor and Warren, to get work done on the family’s Frederick farm. “Our sons were always active workers on the farm. Actively involved from a young age because Margaret and I couldn’t get all the work done ourselves,” John, 67, explains. “I grew up working on my family’s farm and so did Margaret.” By the time their sons were old enough to consider farming full-time, John and Margaret encouraged each of them to get an education and work off the farm.
“Dad said to go to college and see the rest of the world, experience things, work for someone else,” explained Chris, 44. “It was good experience to work for other people and see what it was like to be on the other side of the counter.” After high school, Chris became a diesel mechanic and worked for John Deere for a short time. In 1992 he returned to farm full-time with his dad and mom.
Like him, each of his four brothers left the farm and received degrees.
Eventually each of them made their way back home to the family farm.
Today the five men farm together raising crops and cattle. “I never dreamed they would all come back to farm. It’s a dream come true,” says John, who gave control over to his sons in 2000 and spends most days helping his sons on the farm.
To learn more about the Sumption farm family and view a photo gallery, click here
Eleven South Dakota youth will receive the Torchbearer award during the South Dakota Farmers Union Centennial Convention held Dec. 9-10, 2015.
The highest award the organization bestows upon youth, these teens are recognized for their commitment to community and leadership skills.
Torchbearers have completed all levels of the Famers Union youth achievement awards.
"These youth have exhibited leadership and given back to their communities and the industry of agriculture through participation in Farmers Union leadership training, camps and volunteering their time for community development," explains Bonnie Geyer, South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director.
Torchbearers will be recognized during the Thursday, Dec. 10 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention luncheon which begins at 11:45 a.m. in Huron at the Crossroads Convention Center (100 4th St. SW). Read on to learn about the 2015 Torchbearers and what this award means to them.
- Dr. Temple Grandin, the renowned animal handling researcher, livestock facility designer and author, is the keynote for the South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention held Dec. 9 and 10, 2015 in Huron at the Crossroads Convention Center (100 4th St. SW).
"When Farmers Union brought Temple Grandin to the state in 2014 the response was so amazing, we wanted to bring her back," says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.
Grandin will speak at 1:30 p.m. December 9. The public is invited to attend at no charge.
South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports the National Farmers Union (NFU) in urging the administration to oppose a proposed rule that would make Namibia an eligible country to export meat to the United States. Namibia just this year experienced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
"When you consider the devastation FMD would cause if it were to infect cattle herds in the U.S., it is an unwise risk," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle farmer. "Farmers Union is always on the side of family farmers and ranchers - when you look at the number of South Dakota family farmers and ranchers who raise cattle, an outbreak of FMD in South Dakota would devastate our agriculture economy."
His comments echo those NFU President Roger Johnson submitted Nov. 17, 2015 to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). "An outbreak would have devastating consequences on our domestic livestock industry. NFU calls upon the administration to defend U.S. farmers and ranchers by opposing imports of live animals and processed or frozen animal products from countries or regions with a history of FMD."
In 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed to add Namibia to the list of regions that are considered free of FMD with the exception of north of the country's Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF). "Earlier this year Namibia had an outbreak of FMD north of the VCF," said Johnson. "The Namibian government has said repeatedly that it would like to remove the VCF due to the social and economic inequalities it has created and perpetuated. If the government removes the VCF prior to elimination of all contagious animal diseases, such as FMD, then the U.S. could potentially import infected meat from the country."
Johnson noted that the U.S. has been very fortunate that an outbreak of FMD has not occurred in the states since 1929, but that other countries have not been so lucky.
"In recent memory, the outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the slaughter and/or burning of nearly 3 million animals," said Johnson. "This outbreak was so severe, it delayed the national elections. The epidemic was costly both to farmers and the economy. The total losses to agriculture and the food chain amounted to over $4 billion. Prior to the 2001 outbreak, the UK had gone 34 years without an outbreak."
"With an increasingly global agricultural economy, the U.S. should remain vigilant and adequately weigh the risks and benefits when seeking to expand imports," said Johnson. "NFU encourages USDA to delay the FSIS approval of Namibia as an exporter of beef until APHIS reevaluates the status of FMD in the country, given the latest outbreak."
Voters will have a voice November 2016 thanks to the efforts of South Dakota Farmers Union and volunteers statewide who worked tirelessly to collect 40,400 signatures for the Independent Redistricting Commission.
"This was truly a grassroots effort," says Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "Collecting signatures in order to give voters an opportunity to end gerrymandering wasn't easy - but there was buy-in from South Dakotans, regardless of party, because it is the right thing to do."
South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke expressed concern over the rapid consolidation in agriculture after the Department of Justice approved the purchase of Cargill Inc.'s pork unit by the Brazilian pork packer JBS.
"Growing concentration in agriculture is cause for concern," said Sombke, a fourth generation Conde farmer. "Department of Justice has shown that it is not willing to stand in the way. With each acquisition, the voice of the family farmer becomes more diluted leaving family farmers and ranchers at a significant disadvantage."
National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson also weighed in on the recent acquisition. "It's time for the Department of Justice to wake up and realize that simply rubber stamping every merger and acquisition request that comes before it is directly undermining our nation's already vulnerable family farmers and small producers," said Johnson.
Johnson is especially troubled by the fact that the Department of Justice has not asked for a single restriction on this deal. "While they have argued that family farmers are free to comment if they have any concerns, the unfortunate fact is that most producers are afraid to speak out, fearing retribution by the handful of meatpackers who run the show," Johnson said.
After the deal is complete, more than 70 percent of pork processing ability within the United States will be controlled by just four companies.
With this acquisition, JBS becomes the second-largest pork packer in the nation, second only to Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods.
Taking a break from soybean harvest, Tyler Gerlach climbs into a John Deere 9430 and begins planting winter wheat. Well into the rhythm of planting, Gerlach, 31, begins visiting about the double life he leads that of a Stickney farmer and the former Company Commander of the 1742nd Army National Guard Transportation Company.
As foreign as the two careers may seem from one another - Captain Gerlach was recently responsible for the lives of 160 National Guard soldiers whereas Farmer Gerlach, along with his brother, LaRon, are stewards of the land, raising 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat - Gerlach says there are many circumstances when his background in farming makes him a better soldier and being a soldier makes him a better farmer/business owner.
"Farmers learn not to make rash decisions. Just like planting corn. You don't plant when it's muddy because it won't grow as well. As a soldier I analyze everything and take all conditions into consideration before making a decision," says Gerlach, who returned from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan last October.
His years of leadership experience and training in the Army National Guard taught him the value of planning ahead. "In the military we plan for everything well ahead of time," he explains. "If something doesn't pan out, we don't get upset, we move on to the next plan. Sounds a lot like farming doesn't it?"
Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union highlights members who farm or ranch with their families each month. This November, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Sombke family who farm together near Conde.
By Lura Roti, for SDFU; Photos by Kaylee Speck Photography
In 1978, when Doug Sombke made the decision to farm fulltime after high school, times were tough.
"To explain how broke we were, I tell people that when Mel and I got married we couldn¹t afford an oven. We cooked on a hotplate," Sombke recalls.
But he was determined to make a go of it. Starting with 38 acres and the 4-H flock of 150 registered Suffolk ewes he and his brother, Dean, had built, Sombke stuck with it. He leased from neighbors, share cropped and eventually purchased land.
Along with sheep, the fourth generation Brown County farmer started a cow/calf herd and eventually expanded to operate a feedlot.
South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, urges cooperative patrons to weigh in on CHS proposed bylaw changes.
"If the suggested bylaw changes are passed, they will significantly alter the philosophy of CHS which could have a negative impact on family farmers and could result in changes to the local cooperative business structure," explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer who belongs to several local cooperatives.
Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union highlights members who farm or ranch with their families each month. This October, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Meeks family who ranch on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Land is sacred in the Lakota culture which Jim and Elsie Meeks were both raised.
For almost four decades the ranch couple has worked hard to care for their Pine Ridge Reservation ranch-land and make the family ranch sustainable for the next generation.
"The land is sacred. If you take care of it, it will take care of you. This is a belief that most Natives and, I believe, ranchers of all backgrounds, share," explains Elsie.
For many of South Dakota's rural communities, cooperatives have served as a lifeline to technology, products and services which have allowed local farmers, ranchers and businesses to grow and thrive.
"Co-ops have played an important role in our state's progress," explains Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "When companies didn't want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to bring electricity, telephone service, fuel and agriculture inputs to the countryside, our state's farmers and ranchers banded together to form member-owned cooperatives."
South Dakota family farmers and ranchers spent three days on Capitol Hill visiting with Congressional leaders about key issues impacting agriculture in South Dakota and across the nation.
"Boots on the ground make a difference," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "With harvest just around the corner, this is a busy time for our farmers and ranchers to be away from home - this just demonstrates how important these issues are to the farmers and ranchers who took the time to attend this fly-in."
Together with 270 farmers and ranchers from across the nation, South Dakotans helped conduct hundreds of targeted meetings with nearly every Congressional and Senatorial official on Capitol Hill.
When they made their first YouTube parody video to teach friends about life on their family's Kansas farm, Greg Peterson says he and his siblings never thought it would go viral - receiving more than 5 million hits. The video launched him and his family into agriculture activism.
This September, Peterson will travel to several South Dakota rural high schools, invited by South Dakota Farmers Union as part of the family farming organization's Jr. REAL program (Junior Rural Economic and Leadership).
HURON, S.D. - Ever reach for an item on your grocery list only to recoil from the price?
"I frequently have non-farming friends make comments about how good prices must be after a trip to the grocery store. The truth is, even when prices are down to the point where I'm not even breaking even, prices in the grocery store don't reflect this," explains Wayne Soren, Lake Preston crop and cattle farmer and Vice President of South Dakota Farmers Union.
During the Farmers Share Luncheon hosted by South Dakota Farmers Union and held today at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron, fairgoers learned exactly what portion of the grocery store price tag South Dakota's farmers and ranchers take home after harvesting the crops or livestock they raise.
In the case of this State Fair lunch comprised of a pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, potato chips and milk - retailing for about $8 - South Dakota farmers were paid a whopping 34 cents!
"I am surprised because it seems like farmers receive a lot less money than they should," said Marie Langbehn, who attended the Farmers Share Lunch with her family.
Langbehn's reaction doesn't surprise Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. "Everyone is concerned about high prices in the grocery store - I understand that; it wasn't too many years ago that I was shopping for a family of five," Hofhenke said. "However, what our state's farmers and ranchers actually take home as income is a far cry from the prices we all see on our grocery receipt after a trip to the supermarket."
Educating consumers is one of many tasks the century's old organization takes on to support the state's family farmers, ranchers and their rural communities.
"Since our beginning, Farmers Union has worked to improve family farm and ranch incomes. Farmers and ranchers only receive about 15 cents of every food dollar consumers spend on food," says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a fourth-generation Conde farmer. "As South Dakota's number one industry, the dollars our state's farmers and ranchers earn make a significant contribution to our economy as a whole."
Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union highlights members who farm or ranch with their families each month. This month, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Clark family who ranch 40 miles southeast of Lemmon.
by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union
Middle of Nowhere might be the best way to describe the location of Pat and Barb Clark's ranch, which is located on native rangeland 40 miles southeast of Lemmon and 30 miles east of Meadow.
Homesteaded in 1915 by his grandfather, Avery Clark, and great-uncle, Harry, the Clarks, along with their children, Tayte, 21; Trig, 19; Cassidy, 15; and Teigan, 14; raise cattle, hay and somehow make time for their hobby of rodeo.
"I tell people I love my job. Ranching is what I always wanted to do. It's been my dream since I was a little kid," Pat, 52, explains. "I've always enjoyed livestock and working with horses."