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Farmers Share Lunch Educates More than 1,000 Consumers

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

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

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

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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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Celebrate the 2018 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees during Farmers Union Day at the State Fair

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Each year, SDFU recognizes individuals who give back to their communities with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. 

The 2018 honorees include: Tim Holzer, Arlington; Diana Runge, Wessington; Roger Deiter, Faulkton; John and Maria Condon, Colome; Amy Hofer, Doland; and Joe Schnell, Lake Preston.

To meet the 2018 honorees, attend the Rural Dakota Pride Ceremony held on the Freedom Stage at 10:30 a.m., Sept. 1, during Farms Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair.

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Farmers Union Foundation Offers $2,500 Agricultural Graduate School Scholarship

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Applications for the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate School Scholarship are now available at

The Farmers Union Foundation Scholarship is designed to help retain talent in South Dakota to support South Dakota's agriculture industry. It is open to students from South Dakota, pursuing a graduate degree in research, animal science, agriculture business or agriculture education at an accredited South Dakota school.

 "Education is our future. This scholarship is one way Farmers Union works to help retain highly skilled individuals in South Dakota," said Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde farmer.

 Application deadline is December 15, 2018

Also sponsored by Travelers Motor Club, scholarship preference is given to students from South Dakota who have/had an affiliation with Farmers Union.

 Awards are for one academic year, beginning in the fall, and students may reapply at the end of the award period.

 Eligible graduate students include on-campus and distance education students who are pursuing any master's or doctoral program, agriculture teacher certification program (CERT/FCSC) or graduate certificate program (GCERT).

 To learn more, contact, Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director, South Dakota Farmers Union at or call 605-352-6761 ext.114.

Mike Bredeson, a South Dakota State University doctorate student was the 2018 the recipient of the $2,500 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship.

 "Our rural communities are struggling for many reasons. Agriculture is the foundation of rural communities. If we can bolster our agricultural producers by helping them to diversify their operations, conserve natural resources and improve profitability, the result will be invigorated farm economies," explains Bredeson.

 To apply, visit

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Meet the 2018 S.D. Farmers Union Junior Advisory Council

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How can cooperation build a brighter tomorrow? This was a question considered by campers during the 2018 S.D. Farmers Union State Leadership Camp as they elected a six-member Junior Advisory Council (JAC).

Members selected from communities across South Dakota include: Charlee Byrd, White Lake; Landon Copley, Aberdeen; Abby Dethlefsen, Stickney; Justin Goetz, Selby; Cassidy Keller, Canistota and Caleb Nugteren, Canistota.

As the week progressed campers were asked to discuss subjects that hit close to home for much of the population, cybersecurity, mental health and coping skills.

During the week-long camp, held this summer at Storm Mountain Center just outside Rapid City, campers had the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers teaching them valuable lessons on how they can be a positive impact in the lives of others.

"Brighter tomorrows ensure that we are teaching our young leaders how to be safe and resilient in a tough world," explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director. "Words of kindness aren't flowing freely in the world today and simply put, we tend to believe negative comments over positive comments. Taking time for campers to focus on how to handle difficult situations, how to ask for help and how to be resilient when there are bad days are valuable life skills and how we work toward brighter tomorrows."

Read on to learn more about the Junior Advisory Council.

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National Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprises & Urban Air Initiative Announce Alliance to Pursue Expanded Use Of American-Grown, High-Octane Biofuels

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WASHINGTON - In an effort to expand the market for domestic agriculture products, reduce harmful emissions and provide consumers with lower cost fuel choices, National Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprises and the Urban Air Initiative announced they have formed a strategic alliance to expand the use of American-grown biofuels.

The three groups intend to pursue a broad spectrum of advocacy and advertising activities in furtherance of social, regulatory and legislative solutions to current barriers that limit the amount of biofuels used in the nation's transportation sector.

Roger Johnson, president of the nearly 200,000 family farmer- and rancher-led National Farmers Union, hailed the alliance as a "timely and powerful marriage of urban and rural priorities." "Protecting the public health and welfare-and at the same time improving the rural economy and benefiting family farmers, is a win-win for America."

Farmers Union Enterprises President Doug Sombke said there is an unprecedented opportunity at hand with the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT/NHTSA) proposed rule requesting input on whether and how U.S. regulatory policy should require higher quality, cleaner burning fuels such as E30. Automakers have said they need these fuels to power next-generation higher compression engines, resulting in improved fuel efficiency, a reduction in carbon and other harmful emissions, and significant cost savings for consumers at the pump.

Urban Air Initiative Director Trevor Hinz noted that the vast body of best available science proves renewable ethanol's superior octane properties substantially reduce the most harmful mobile source air toxics (MSATs), the predominant source of which are benzene-based aromatics that refiners synthesize from crude oil. Hinz cited the mandatory provision in the Clean Air Act that requires EPA/OTAQ to reduce MSATs to the "greatest extent technologies present themselves."

Sombke, also President of South Dakota Farmers Union, added that "at the end of the day, this is about putting America first and making sure that unaccountable regulators are not allowed to create an artificial monopoly for oil interests that harm consumers, the environment, and exacerbate our trade deficit."

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Community Heroes, Farmers & Ranchers During SDFU Day at the State Fair

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South Dakota Farmers Union will celebrate community heroes, family farmers and ranchers and educate consumers on current challenges facing our state's No. 1 industry of agriculture during the 2018 Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair Sept. 1. SDFU is a Premier Sponsor of the South Dakota State Fair.

 "For more than a century, Farmers Union has supported our state's family farmers and ranchers - and this year, with low commodity prices, made worse by the current trade war, our farmers and ranchers need every bit of support we can provide them through policy development, lobbying congressional leaders and consumer education," explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President and a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

 To educate consumers on the current low prices, on Sept. 1, SDFU serves 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 will only be collecting 25 cents.

 "When consumers buy a pound of burger at the store and pay $5, they think I'm making $5 a pound for the cattle I raise. This simply isn't the case," explains Colome farmer, Joel Keierleber. "Consumers really don't understand that most of their food dollars go to the middle man. For example, I only receive about $1.80 for that pound of burger."

 And, like every cow/calf producer in South Dakota, Keierleber is responsible for the health and welfare of the cattle day-in and day-out until they are sold to a feeder or processor.

 "As farmers or ranchers, we're the ones taking care of the critter for up to two years and receiving a very small fraction of the grocery store price," Keierleber explains.

 Each year the farmers share lunch feeds more than 1,000.

 "This is one of our largest educational events," says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. "Education is a mission our grassroots organization takes seriously."

 Throughout the year, SDFU hosts educational events for youth, rural professionals and community leaders, and farm and ranch couples. This year the organization expanded their educational offerings, with the SDFU Farm Safety trailer, a mobile, interactive classroom designed to provide rural youth with farm safety training.

Fairgoers will have an opportunity to go through the trailer during the state fair.

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SDFU Farm Safety Trailer Brings Hands-On Safety Education to Your Community

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For decades, South Dakota Farmers Union has brought farm safety education to hundreds of rural youth through county camps held each summer.

 This year, the grassroots organization is taking the message of farm safety on the road - literally.

 The SDFU Farm Safety Trailer is a portable, hands-on classroom dedicated educating rural youth across South Dakota.

 "Education is one of our organization's three focuses. The hands-on nature of this trailer will enhance this mission and allow us to provide farm safety education to youth year-round," explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

 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, who was honored by Farmers Union in 2016 for her involvement in SDFU county camps, with the Minnie Lovenger Award.

 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."

 Preventing accidents through fun and interaction is the No. 1 goal of the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer, explains Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator.

"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," Forman explains.

 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. "The trailer took more than a year to design and develop, but the result is worth it," Hofhenke says.

 To see the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer for yourself, check it out during the 2018 South Dakota State Fair held in Huron Aug. 30 through Sept. 3. To bring the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer to your community, contact Forman at 605-350-3421 or

Tucker Micheel of Cavour, learns about ATV safety with help from an ATV simulator and Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator. The ATV safety simulator is one of the many hands-on safety exhibits featured in the South Dakota Farmers Union

Farm Safety Trailer,  a portable, classroom dedicated to educating rural youth across South Dakota.

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Three South Dakota Teens Elected to National Farmers Union Youth Council

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HURON, S.D. - Three South Dakota teens were elected to the National Farmers Union (NFU) National Youth Advisory Council during the 82nd annual NFU All-States Leadership Camp held in Bailey, Colorado.

 "Serving on this council is a great opportunity for me to continue to grow as a person and a leader," said Canistota High School senior, Caleb Nugteren, 17.

 Youth members of South Dakota Farmers Union, Nugteren, Jim Brockel, Shadehill and Justin Goetz, Selby, were elected to serve a one-year term on the National Youth Advisory Council by their peers from across the nation during the week-long leadership camp. During their year of service they will represent thousands of Farmers Union youth from across the nation at the 2019 NFU National Convention, in Washington D.C., and the team will be actively involved in the planning of the 2019 All-States Camp.

 "NYAC builds leaders in the agriculture industry and ensures the voice of younger generations is heard and respected in what the organization does," says Roger Johnson, NFU President. "Over the course of the next year, these six youths will serve as representatives of their peers, learn about the legislative process and lobbying, and present in front of hundreds of NFU members and press at the NFU convention. I'm confident they will be strong advocates for both the organization and young people in agriculture."

 Advocating for agriculture is a task Brockel is eager to participate in. A graduate of Bison High School, Brockel grew up working on his family's ranch.

 "The strength of agriculture impacts me, my neighbors and my community. I'm eager to share my story with Congressional leaders in D.C. and hear what other Farmers Union members have to say during policy discussions at National Convention," says Brockel, who will be attending the University of South Dakota this fall.

 As members of the National Youth Advisory Council, these South Dakota youth will also serve as role models to the many youth across the nation who participate in Farmers Union youth programming. Serving as a mentor is not a new role for Goetz, a Selby Area High School senior.

 "I like to help others," explains Goetz, who currently serves on the SDFU Junior Advisory Council, the team which plans Farmers Union annual state leadership camp. "Encouraging and motivating others to do better is something I work to do."

 All three youth have been actively involved in SDFU youth programming for a number of years and say the leadership skills they developed through the annual State Leadership Camp helped them achieve this new service role.

 "Attending Farmers Union Leadership Camp really pushed me to step outside my comfort zone," explains Nugteren. "I am not typically a person who enjoys speaking in front of people, but because of the experience I have gained over the years, I now enjoy meeting new people and feel comfortable public speaking."

 The South Dakota teens will serve with youth from North Dakota, Riley Lebahn; Minnesota, Jade Person; and Wisconsin, Camryn Billen.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Hotchkiss Farm Family of Colton

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By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 Paul Hotchkiss' first love is farming.

 "I don't know why it's what I love, but I do. It's what I've done all my life," explains the fourth-generation farmer, who has been running farm equipment since he was 6.

 "His mom and dad told stories of how Paul would sit and play with the baby pigs when he was supposed to be doing chores," adds his forever love and wife, Myrna.

 For the first 50 years, farming and the community of Colton were his life. Then, Paul met Myrna. Together the couple have built a fuller life together, sharing the joys and challenges farming brings.

 The couple met through a group of friends who would go dancing together on the weekends.

 "Paul was such a good dancer," Myrna says. "One weekend, he didn't show up and we didn't have many guys to dance with, so I asked for Paul's number and gave him a call."

 The two began visiting nearly every evening and quickly became close friends. To read more, click here.

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SD Farmers Union Members Call for Strong Leadership & Action During July 25 Policy Meeting

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Concerns over the survival of South Dakota's family farms and ranches motivated many members of South Dakota Farmers Union to meet in Huron July 25, 2018 and establish policy calling for Congressional leadership to act on behalf of our state's number one industry.

 "We request our delegation to support our states farmers and ranchers, to end the trade tariffs, get a Farm Bill passed immediately, and finish the NAFTA trade agreement.

Our producers cannot afford lower prices along with higher input costs, they will be forced by lenders to leave the occupation they love.

We believe this should be one of the top priorities for the remainder of this year. As our state's number one industry, immediate action is paramount for the survival of agriculture in South Dakota and national security. We are in desperate need of leadership from you," reads a portion of the Call to Action introduced by Pierpont farmers, Franklin Olson and David Sigdestad and passed unanimously by SDFU members.

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SD Farmers Union Joins NFU in Urging Administration to Do More

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HURON, S.D. - In response to the Trump Administration's announcement of a $12 billion plan to provide emergency aid to farmers amidst an escalating trade war with China and other trading partners, Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President urges the Administration to do more to help family farmers and ranchers.

 "How will this help the South Dakota farmers who need emergency funds the most," asked Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer from Conde who was among a group of agriculture leaders and media invited to a phone conference with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue as he discussed the plan that will include direct assistance, a food purchase and distribution program, and a trade promotion program.

 "This plan sounds just like a re-run of the same plan that was put in place during the Farm Crisis and wheat embargo of the 1970s. That plan failed. This plan is evidence that the administration had no clue of the devastating impact this trade war is having on America's heartland - it is costing our family farmers money to raise crops this year," Sombke said.

 He explained that farmers will not have access to the $12 billion in relief until January 2019 - after their production year is complete.

 Sombke and SDFU join with National Farmers Union (NFU), the nation's second largest general farm organization, in this request to do more to provide a long-term fix to the long-term damage of the trade war.

 The group supports the president's efforts to improve fair trade relationships with trading partners yet has grown weary of the administration's go-it-alone, bull-in-a-china-shop approach.

 Sombke will meet with Senator John Thune this afternoon to discuss SDFU thoughts on the announcement.

 Below is a statement from NFU President Roger Johnson issued in response to the announcement:

 "President Trump's escalating trade war with China and much of the rest of the world requires that we go to significant lengths to protect the men and women who grow our food, fuel and fiber. Their livelihoods are on the line with every tweet, threat or tariff action that comes from the White House. Market prices for farm products are plunging from already very low levels, and it's been estimated that farmers lost more than $13 billion last month alone due to trade disruptions.

 "While we appreciate the move to provide stopgap assistance, this plan is a short-term fix to a long-term problem. The administration must develop a support mechanism that will mitigate the significant damage that is being inflicted upon our most vital international markets for years to come. They should do this by working with Congress to ensure farm bill programs provide enough assistance to farmers when markets collapse."

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With Friends Like This...

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With Friends Like This...

South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke discusses how the EPA's proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule would hurt both the ethanol and agriculture industries.

This op-ed originally ran in the Ethanol Producer Magazine July 13, 2018 

 The news we get out of Washington these days lies somewhere between incredible and laughable, particularly with our Environmental Protection Agency. There is no precedent for the anti-ethanol, pro-oil actions of a federal agency like we are seeing from EPA. And this is from an administration and an agency that professes to be a friend to ethanol. It reminds us of the old saying: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" But let's be clear: They are not friends to ethanol or, for that matter, agriculture.

 In this last display of "support," led by technocrats in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the agency has proposed to make the use of ethanol blends above 15 percent volume illegal and restrict such blends to flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). This comes on the heels of recent waivers granted by EPA to refiners who have failed to comply with the law of the land-the Renewable Fuel Standard-requiring the petroleum industry to include a modest percentage of fuels derived from renewable resources.

 A previously established market of at least 15 billion gallons has been whittled down by 2 billion gallons, effectively reducing corn demand by nearly 700 million bushels. With many of our farmers already operating below the cost of production, this is another blow. It also comes at a time when EPA is grappling with federal fuel economy standards and the need for high-octane, low-carbon fuels-a job description ethanol fills perfectly when used in higher blends. The Department of Energy has long endorsed the use of blends between 25 and 40 percent as the sweet spot for ethanol in terms of price, octane and emissions. Here in South Dakota, a joint effort by corn growers and ethanol producers continues to demonstrate E30 blends in conventional vehicles with tremendous success and no problems whatsoever. And that is important because, in another ironic twist to this story, FFVs have been put out to pasture thanks to EPA. Automaker incentives to produce such vehicles have been all but eliminated and the fact is, the higher blends are more efficient in conventional vehicles.

 EPA has all the legal authority it needs to extend the vapor pressure rules to allow year-round use of E15 and higher blends, but has not included such a rule or even proposed to do so. Nor has it approved an E30 certified fuel by which auto manufacturers can vigorously test new models to enable them to optimize and provide warrantees. Yet, EPA has the time and resources to pull out an Obama Administration proposed rule that the Trump Administration should throw away.

 The rule proposed by EPA is called Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support and is the answer to a question no one in the ethanol industry asked. But one does not need to be a master detective to conclude who would ask for such an action: the petroleum industry. Is there any precedent for an industry to have a federal agency cap its competition? It is so outrageous it is hard to really grasp.

 Not only does such an action cap the volume of ethanol but it relegates it to its lowest value. Its highest value is to provide octane and reduce the toxic carcinogens in gasoline while offering consumers a significant cost savings at the pump. Left unchallenged, the oil industry would have a guaranteed 85 percent of the motor fuel market for light-duty vehicles. The 15 percent share left for ethanol would be used for octane but the oil industry would continue to make a huge profit off the lower price it pays for that ethanol, all the while continuing to unnecessarily poison the air all Americans breathe.

 The ethanol industry, farmers everywhere, environmentalists and health advocates should share a common goal of having this rule scrapped. Proponents of a free market should be appalled at the intervention of a federal agency in the market. Consumers should be outraged that a lower-cost, healthier fuel is intentionally being denied to them by the very government agency charged to protect them. In fact, anyone other than someone who makes a profit off gasoline should make defeating this rule a high priority.


Doug Sombke is President of South Dakota Farmers Union and a fourth-generation Conde farmer. He can be reached at

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The Family who Rodeos Together ... Hartford Family Shares Passion for Sport

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by Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

 This Wednesday (June 13,2018), South Dakota Farmers Union fed hundreds of South Dakota families who gathered in Belle Fourche for the South Dakota State High School Rodeo Finals, among them is the Pirrung family of Hartford.

 Payton, 16, qualified in team roping - an event he and his brother, Braden, 20, and dad, Dan, have been competing in since he was 6.

 "I'm pretty competitive, so rodeo and competing with my friends, is something I enjoy," says Payton, who also qualified in the tie down event.

 Although he says he could have participated in basketball, football, baseball ... Payton never gave much thought to any sport other than rodeo.

 And, it's no wonder - rodeo is in his blood.

 His mom, Cathy (Smith) Pirrung, grew up trailering horses to shows and playday rodeos. As a teen, barrel racing became her life.

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Farmers Harvest the Sun's Energy & Save

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by Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

 Renewable energy has intrigued Hans Breitenmoser since childhood.

 "I can remember climbing up our 80-foot silo when I was a kid and thinking we should put up a wind turbine," says the Merrill, Wisconsin, dairy farmer.

 His renewable energy daydreams became a reality in 2012 when he installed solar panels on the main freestall barn of his 430-cow dairy. 

 The panels produced about 10 percent of his dairy's energy needs. Which, he explains are substantial. "Even though today's dairy uses much less energy than we did in the past thanks to energy efficient technology, dairies use a lot of energy," he says, explaining energy is used to do everything from cool milk and run a parlor's milking equipment to powering ventilation fans, lagoon pumps and alley scrapers.

 So, in 2016, when Breitenmoser was drawing up plans for a new barn, he decided to increase his farm's solar energy footprint. This time, instead of financing the project on his own, the Wisconsin Farmers Union member worked with Farmers Union Enterprises to help him fund the installation that, coupled with the 2012 panels, now covers 25 percent of his farm's energy needs.

 "In the state of Wisconsin, we don't have any coal, we don't have any natural gas, so I think it's silly that in 2018 more than 60 percent of the electricity our citizens consume is produced by burning coal that has to be transported to our state from more than a 1,000 miles away," Breitenmoser says.  

 Investing in renewable energy not only aligns with Breitenmoser's moral compass, but it saves him, on average, more than $330 each month on his electric bill.

 "The Wisconsin dairy industry is really hurting right now - corn and beans aren't worth much either - so, if solar energy can help farmers save money, and maybe provide an opportunity to sell extra energy back to the grid, all the while decreasing our use of fossil fuels, which we don't own, I think it's a good deal," Breitenmoser explains.

 Darin Von Ruden agrees. "Every year we continue to see farmers leaving the land because they don't have a steady income," says the President of Wisconsin Farmers Union.

 As state Farmers Union president, Von Ruden sits on the board of directors for Farmers Union Enterprises (FUE), the multi-business cooperative which helped Breitenmoser finance the solar panel installation.

 The other Farmers Union state organizations which make up FUE include: South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. All funds raised through FUE businesses go to support the National Farmers Union and the five state's Farmers Union organizations. 

 "We are always looking for ways to keep our farmers farming," says Von Ruden, who also has solar panels on his barn roof - saving him, on average, $625 in electricity each month.

 FUE collaborated with North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative to encourage Wisconsin farmers to consider solar energy.

 "Farmers understand the long-term investment on equipment, like these solar panels," says Josh Stolzenburg, President of North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative, an Amherst, Wisconsin, farmer and a Wisconsin Farmers Union member.

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S.D. Farmers Union President Sends Letter to Pruitt Calling On EPA to Stop Efforts to Block Ethanol Blends

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Doug Sombke, President of the South Dakota Farmers Union was joined by National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson today (June 11, 2018) in calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon plans to finalize an Obama era rule that would cap ethanol blends at 15%.

In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sombke and Johnson criticized the Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) rule that would deny higher ethanol blends in conventional vehicles. Originally proposed in 2016, the National Farmers Union and a number of its state chapters (Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) submitted comments in opposition to the REGS Rule, arguing that EPA has misinterpreted the substantially similar provision of the Clean Air Act and that ethanol is now the nation's base certification fuel and is not limited as to volumes.

 EPA has not put a specific timetable on the rule but has indicated it proposes to submit it for final approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which reviews all rules before being finalized.

 The letter states that, "If EPA chooses to regulate ethanol content-i.e., such as prohibiting the use of E30 in legacy (non-FFV) vehicles-it must do so under Section 211(c), which puts the burden of proof on EPA, not the fuel ethanol industry. A vast amount of Department of Energy and national lab studies, as well as real world experience, conclusively proves that the use of high octane mid-level ethanol blends (E25 - E40) in legacy vehicles does NOT impair the performance of emission control systems, nor does it exacerbate harmful emissions. In fact, because mid-level ethanol blends like E30 reduce the level of carcinogenic aromatic compounds (BTEX) in gasoline, and promote more efficient combustion, the opposite is true."

 "This has a direct impact on South Dakota Agriculture and could be worth $1.5 billion to our economy," said Sombke. "Here we are demonstrating that E30 blends are high performance, high value fuels and EPA is considering denying this option."

 Sombke noted that EPA has not only failed to help increase the domestic ethanol market but is taking it backwards with the recent refinery waivers and ignoring the vapor pressure waiver requests for higher blends. FlexFuel Vehicle credits have all but been eliminated by EPA and there is simply no pathway for expanding the ethanol market, he added.

 EPA is also proposing new fuel economy rules that Administrator Pruitt has acknowledged would be well served by higher octane fuels, octane that ethanol blends like the E30 being used throughout South Dakota can easily and economically provide.

 "For an administration that professes to support removal of rules and regulations that impede domestic energy production - not to mention supporting American agriculture - this is the opposite of that promise. Our message to EPA is to open the market and remove these barriers to higher blends and help us create new markets for our corn.

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S.D. Farmers Union 2018 Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship Winners Announced

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HURON, S.D. - The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation, in cooperation with Farmers Union Insurance Agency, announces the Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow scholarship recipients. Each of the scholarship recipients will 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." 


Scholarship recipients include the following: (Click on youth's name to link to a high resolution photo)

Jenifer Fjelstad, graduate of Groton Area High School and daughter of Clint & Tara Fjelstad;

 Matthew Sperry, graduate of Aberdeen Roncalli and son of Scott & Kathy Sperry;

 Sage Pulse, graduate of Kimball High School and daughter of Lee & Nicole Pulse;

 Anne Knoff, graduate of Yankton High School and daughter of David & Jozette Knoff;

 Trew DeJong, graduate of Philip High School and son of Travis & Pamela DeJong;

 Riley Calhoon, graduate of Winner High School and son of John & Jodi Calhoon;

 Ellie Holmes, graduate of Brandon Valley High School and d,aughter of Mike & Val Holmes;

 Taylor Gall, graduate of Scotland High School and daughter of Fred & Tricia Gall;

 Savannah Krogman, graduate ofJones County High School and daughter of Neil Krogman & Kathy Krogman;

 Kaylee Hart, graduate of Mitchell High School and daughter of Troy & Andrea Hart;

 Katie McManus, graduate of Lyman High School and daughter of Don & Melinda McManus;

 Eric Olson, graduate of Watertown High School and son of Jim & Julie Olson;

 Brianna Mount, graduate of Webster Area High School and daughter of Randy & Stacy Mount;

 Erica Koster, graduate of Armour High School and daughter of Dean & Bonnie Koster;

 Saraya Bronson, graduate of Wilmot High School and daughter of Colin & Renae Bronson;

 Zachary Severson, graduate of Canton High School and son of Brad & LuAnn Severson;

 Dalton Howe, graduate of Redfield High School and son of Lance & Shirley Howe;

 Carter Larson, graduate of Vermillion High School and son of Eric Larson & Laurie Larson;

 Chastin Mohr, graduate of Parker High School and daughter of Scott & Jenia Mohr;

 Sadie Vander Wal, graduate of Northwestern High School and daughter of Jeff & Beth Vander Wal;

 Kylee Guindon, graduate of Plankinton High School and daughter of Rayne & Jen Guindon;

 Nathan Rook, graduate of Aberdeen Central High School and son of Kevin & Brenda Rook;

 Emily Oswald, graduate of Yankton High School and daughter of Jason & Sherri Oswald; and

 Kaylee Becker, graduate of TF Riggs High School and daughter of David & Denette Becker.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Cable Ranch Family, Pukwana, South Dakota

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By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union


Dawn (Gilman) Cable was shorter than the barrels she raced around when she began competing at area playday rodeos.  

 Her daughters, Jimmi and Kari, could say the same for the sport that also captured their hearts.

 After chores were done on the family's cow/calf and club calf ranch north of Pukwana, the Cable women practiced together on a barrel patch Dawn's husband, Harley, disks up each spring for them. 

 On the weekends, the family raced to wrap up chores so they could head off to rodeos together. In their teens, through college and into adulthood, Dawn and her daughters continued to barrel race together.

 "It's one thing the three of us did together since they were teeny, tiny girls," Dawn says. 

 "It gave us something we all enjoyed and got to spend time outside of the ranch together and we made so many friends," adds daughter, Kari, 27, who today is the lead MRI technician at Rapid City Regional Hospital. 

 Because of all the good memories the family created barrel racing together, when a tragic car accident took Jimmi's life four years ago, Harley, Dawn and Kari decided a memorial barrel race would be a fitting way to remember Jimmi; her love of horses and passion for barrel racing, livestock and their Pukwana ranch. And, most of all, her love for her family and friends. 

 As the state director of the South Dakota Barrel Horse Association, Dawn knew how to organize the event. Friends and family members also chipped in and July 2015 the family hosted the first Jimmi Rose Memorial Barrel Race.

 "I was hoping for 50 entries and 200 showed up," Dawn says of the event that has become an annual tradition, held each year during the last Sunday in July in Huron on the Beadle County 4-H Rodeo Grounds.

  All funds raised go to support organizations and events Jimmi and her family hold dear: a belt buckle for the winner of round robin at the 4-H round robin at the Brule County Achievement Days; jackets for grand champion Sim-Angus heifer at the Spotlight Livestock Show; prizes for all the peewee barrel racers at the memorial barrel race and many other events.

 "It's a good feeling knowing you still support what she loved. Another part of the memorial barrel race is, it's a way to bring all my family and all of her friends together to remember her," Kari says. "It's a bittersweet day. We all enjoy getting to see each other and to honor her memory. The support from each other keeps you going." Kari says.

 Her mom agrees.

 "It's the comradery. I tell you, when we lost Jimmi, I found out who my real friends are - and my barrel racing friends are definitely in that category. They have stuck beside me through it all," Dawn explains.

 The ranch, with its wide open spaces, cattle who need caring for and a few good horses always ready for a ride, also helps. "If I have a bad day, I get on my horse and ride the creek," says Dawn, of Crow Creek which runs through the property. 

 Cable Ranch

Harley grew up on the ranch, and says he never wanted to do anything else. "I like cattle and I like breeding superior livestock."

 In addition to raising commercial cattle, since his teens, Harley has been raising sought after livestock, selling Sim-Angus bulls and club calves to commercial cattle producers and show youth who exhibit the calves in livestock shows across the nation. 

 Only 15 when his dad died, Harley made ranching his full-time career, building on the 2,500 acres and 25-head of cattle his dad left to him.

 Their overall breeding program has a strong focus on maternal traits - sound udders, good feet and legs and, "of course, good rate of gain," Harley explains.

 "Makes a guy feel pretty proud to see the calves we raise, do well in the show ring. There are a lot of people breeding club calves who buy high-dollar donors, and most of the time we can do it through cows we raise and AI-ing them," Harley explains.

 Also raised on a ranch, Dawn has worked beside Harley since they married 32 years ago. 

 "I've always preferred to be outdoors working. The first time I brought Harley home to meet my parents, he was having coffee with my dad and I was out feeding cows," Dawn says.

 She then asks Harley. "What did you think of when you were having coffee with my dad while I was feeding cows?"

 With a twinkle in his eye, Harley answers, "She was trying to impress me."

 Although the couple has been through unimaginable grief together, there is a lot of jesting and laughter when they discuss working together as a family on the ranch. Before they were school-age, the girls spent their days outdoors with their parents.

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