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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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Have You Commented?

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By Doug Sombke, SD Farmers Union President, posted December 13, 2018

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

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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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SD Farmers Union Celebrates the Maher Ranch Family of Ziebach County

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

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

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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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