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."
Each year, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals who give back to their communities with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. To meet the 2015 honorees, attend the recognition ceremony held Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. on the Freedom Stage at the S.D. State Fair.
More than 1,729 rural youth, ages 6 to 18, learned about cooperatives, developed leadership skills and celebrated South Dakota's agriculture industry together by attending a Farmers Union County, District or State camp this summer.
"Camps are a wonderful way for S.D. Farmers Union to fulfill our commitment to providing rural youth with leadership education, as well as exposure to farm safety information and a clear understanding of the role cooperatives play in South Dakota's rural communities," says Bonnie Geyer, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director.
South Dakota Farmers Union celebrates 100 years of service to South Dakota's rural communities and farm and ranch families during Farmers Union Day held Sept. 5 during the 2015 South Dakota State Fair in Huron.
"The State Fair is South Dakota's agricultural showcase. It's the place where the families, businesses and organizations who make up our state's number one industry gather to celebrate the best of the best. Farmers Union is proud to be a premiere sponsor of this event," said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.
Farmers Union Rural Economic and Leadership (REAL) Development Program is looking for committed leaders from farms, ranches and rural communities across South Dakota to enroll in the 2015-2016 class. "Farmers Union is committed to developing leaders within rural communities," explains Erin Wilcox, SDFU Rural Development Coordinator of the program Farmers Union sponsors. "Whether you are interested in serving as a board member, thinking about participating in local or state politics or taking the next step personally or professionally, REAL is designed to help individuals advance their leadership and communication skills."
In its seventh year, REAL was designed to fill a void many working on farms, ranches or for small rural businesses experience. "Here's the thing, those working in corporate America often have access to professional development training sponsored by their companies. Small businesses or family farming or ranching operations in South Dakota don't have the capital to invest in this type of training, so Farmers Union developed REAL," says Doug Sombke, SDFU President.
Ranching together for almost 40 years, Mary Ellen and Randy Cammack look forward to sharing a bit of what they've learned with younger couples as well as gaining knowledge they can bring back to their Sturgis ranch through their participation in the 2015-2016 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.
"History does repeat itself and we¹ve learned a lot over the years which we can share. And, we still have more to learn from others," Mary Ellen says
During the 2015 Farmers Union State Leadership Camp, a six member Junior Advisory Council was selected by the youth and Education Council to serve as leaders, role models and representatives in planning and conducting the 2016 State Leadership Camp.
The 2015-2016 Junior Advisory Council (JAC), who were announced during State Camp, include: Windsor Barry, Carter; Jesse Carlson, Seneca; Kylee DeBoer, Tripp; Tess Heidenreich, Faulkton; Kaden Kummer, Parkston; and Jeana Nuss, Tripp.
In addition to coordinating, implementing and directing State Camp, these individuals participate in a number of leadership development opportunities throughout the year. They are involved in activities such as serving as a page at the Farmers Union State Convention, helping with Farmers Union events across South Dakota and assisting the State Education Director with promotion of education programs.
Each year, more than 3,000 rural youth participate in Farmers Union education programming. To help fund that programming, Gene Hammond recently donated $5,000 to the Farmers Union Foundation endowment.
Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota's farm and ranch families, throughout 2015, South Dakota Farmers Union will highlight members who farm or ranch with their families each month. For the months of July & August, South Dakota Farmers Union features the Reis family who ranch near Reliance.
by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union
While some ranchers are nervous about what will happen to their operation when they are ready to retire, David and Brenda Reis are not too worried.
"All of our kids want to take over the ranch. That would not be sustainable, but the one thing about having a close family, between the kids and us, we'll be able to work out a transition plan," says David, the third-generation to raise cattle in the Missouri River breaks near Reliance.
New language tied to today's Transportation Funding Bill could dramatically impact the strength of current Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation, said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a Conde, S.D. farmer.
"The new language diminishes COOL's ability to protect American consumers - it basically means that retailers no longer need to label where meat comes from," explained Sombke, of the language introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND) and tied to today's Transportation Funding Bill.
Today, the S.D. Attorney General's Office provided South Dakota Farmers Union Board of Directors with the title and explanation language for the Constitutional Amendment addressing Legislative Redistricting.
Board members are pleased with the prompt response of the Attorney General's office in processing their request ahead of schedule.
"Now is the time to act," said Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President. "A nonpartisan, Redistricting Commission empowers voters allowing them to choose their legislators, not the other way around. With the guidelines established in the Constitutional Amendment, this new commission will end the harmful practice of gerrymandering and restore voter participation in South Dakota."
Three South Dakota teens were selected to serve on Farmers Union National Youth Advisory Council during the 2015 National Farmers Union All States Leadership Camp held in Bailey, Colo. this June.
The students include: Jesse Carlson, 17, a Faulkton High School senior and son of Scott and Amy Carlson; Kiana Brockel, 19, a graduate of Bison High School and the daughter of Kelvin and Jean Brockel; and Alexandra Farber, 18, a graduate of Britton-Hecla High School and daughter of Tom and Lori Farber.