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A Unique Take on How the Cooperative Business Model Serves Today's Needs

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By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

 Finding South Dakota authors isn't an easy task. Creative writer and high school English teacher Jason Kurtz should know, he spent a few years looking.

 "I was doing research and it turned up an old Rapid City Journal article that listed nine South Dakota authors - eight featured in the article were dead," explains Kurtz, who made it his mission to unite regional writers and other artists.

 He launched a non-profit South Dakota Writes in 2016 and through its Facebook page Kurtz began connecting with more than 450 South Dakota authors - 150 of whom have published books.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Hanson Farm Family of Sisseton

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By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

 When it comes to his farm, it doesn't take much to make Gary Hanson smile.

 "I just enjoy going out and putting in fence. The posts are straight, the wires are tight - it gives me joy," explains the fourth-generation Sisseton farmer. "I tell people that when I was a college student, farming was my distraction. I loved it and knew that I could return to the farm, so that's what I did."

 At 67, Hanson's passion for farming has not dwindled, but his focus has expanded beyond his crops and cattle.

 Today, his son, Cody, 42, is making most of the decisions Gary and his brother, Paul, used to make.

 "Like my dad, I liked tractors and cattle - I played farmer when I was growing up - I enjoy what I do," explains Cody, who lives on the farm, next door to his mom and dad, with his wife, Shawn, and their four school-age children, Reece, 16; Parker, 14; Kennedy, 10; and Scarlett, 6.

Gary says handing over the reins to Cody has given him more time to enjoy farm tasks, time spent outdoors and allowed him to become more engaged in his other passion - serving South Dakota's farmers and ranchers.

 Over the last two decades, Gary has traded in some on-farm responsibilities for off-farm agriculture advocacy.

To read more and view a photo gallery click here

To listen to a recorded interview with the Hansons, click here

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National Farmers Union President Joins Advisory Board of New Energy America

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HURON, S.D. - In a move to further Farmers Union's commitment to promoting American grown, renewable energy sources, today, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson joined the advisory board of New Energy America, a new organization created to promote clean energy jobs in rural America.

 Johnson and National Farmers Union will support New Energy America's engagement with communities and lawmakers in rural America to demonstrate how policies that support the deployment of clean energy create jobs in rural America. While the fossil fuel industry enjoys support from the politicians elected in these states, the data is clear that policies that support reducing emissions are creating good jobs in rural America.

 "Farmers Union members have long been staunch supporters of clean, renewable energy, especially when that energy development puts folks to work on the farm and in rural communities," said Johnson. "I'm eager to work with my colleagues at New Energy America to ensure the success of the America renewable energy sector for the benefit of American family farmers, ranchers, and their rural communities."

 As part of its launch today, New Energy America released the first Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report, which contains a detailed analysis of clean energy jobs in each of the 50 states. The report shows that clean energy jobs outpace fossil energy jobs in 41 states. 

"Clean energy is putting more people to work," said Mike Carr, Executive Director of New Energy America. "The electricians installing solar panels, the welders building wind turbines, and the truck drivers delivering biofuels all benefit from policies that promote clean energy, and we're here to tell their stories."

 After recent unveiling of an initiative to expand ethanol and biofuels markets by NFU and South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU), Doug Sombke, SDFU President, sees Johnson's addition to New Energy America's board as a step in the right direction for the future of ethanol.

 "This is an excellent opportunity for Farmers Union to highlight our efforts and commitment to E30 on an additional platform," says Sombke. "Johnson's invitation to join New Energy America's board shows the respect Farmers Union has when it comes to what's happening in the world with renewable fuels."

 The 2017 Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report, and more information about New Energy America can be found at   

To view the Fifty State Clean Energy Jobs Report, visit this link.

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South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers Share Their Plight in D.C.

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This week, 26 South Dakota farmers and ranchers left their fields and cattle in trusted hands and traveled to D.C. to visit with Congressional leaders and their staff about the challenges and opportunities they face as they work to feed our nation.

They are among more than 200 farmers and ranchers from across the nation who met in D.C. for the annual National Farmers Union Fly-In.

 "Times are tough. Not only is there a drought, but crop and cattle prices are so low that many South Dakota farmers and ranchers need take off-farm jobs so they can feed their own families - while they work hard day in and day out to feed the nation and the world," explained Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President.

 Today, the South Dakota group met with United States Department of Agriculture Officials. Tomorrow and Wednesday they will have sit-down meetings with more than 30 members of Congressional Leadership and their staff to share their personal stories.

"It's important to take the time to tell law makers how we feel about decisions they are making because they impact our lives," explained Scott Kolousek, fifth-generation cattle producer from Wessington Springs.

 These face-to-face meetings make a difference.

"When staffers get to sit down with those of us who plant the crops and feed the cattle, they actually listen when we say we need their support," Sombke said. "It's tough to ignore someone when you hear the passion in their voice - and yes, this year there have been a few tears - when we talk about the challenges we work through to as we work to provide a safe and abundant food supply."

 To learn more about the D.C. Fly-In, visit You can also follow the South Dakota delegation on Facebook, search South Dakota Farmers Union.


South Dakotans attending the National Farmers Union D.C. Fly-In include; Doug Sombke, SDFU President, Conde; Wayne Soren, Lake Preston, SDFU Vice President; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Christina Dexter, SDFU Communications Specialist, Huron; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Joe and Cynthia Painter, Buffalo; Jason and Corliss Lee, Cresbard; Jessica and Andrew Mefferd, Mitchell; George, Michelle, Tyler, Nicholas and Brooklynn Kenzy,Gregory; Amber, Scott and Isaac Kolousek, Wessington Springs; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Kayla Foreman, SDFU Controller, Miller; Kathy and Bill Chase, Wolsey; Craig Blindert, Salem; Jack Eble, Sioux Falls and Adam Huntimer, Sioux Falls

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Panelists Discuss the Future of Ethanol During State Fair Event

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South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) hosted an E-30 panel discussion today at the State Fair to talk about the economic and environmental benefits ethanol brings to South Dakota and its agriculture producers.

"Producing higher levels of ethanol does not only benefit farmers but consumers as well," explains Marc Rauch, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of The Auto Channel.

 "The more ethanol we use the cleaner the air is and the better our engines run. That's good for everyone. My own tests and tests conducted by others, show that E30 ethanol-gasoline blends produce the best MPG (mile per gallon) results in most current gasoline-optimized vehicle engines, including E85 flex fuel vehicles. This means that consumers save money and get better mileage. "

 Rauch discussed the potential benefits higher levels of American production of ethanol would bring to the national economy.

 "I'd rather give my fuel money to American farmers than to foreign dictators, so we can keep more money in the country," said Rauch. "By using E30 nationally we could save hundreds of billions of dollars that leave the country to be spent on importing foreign fuel.

 If we can avoid sending the $1 billion a day ($360 billion per year) out of the country and instead, use those dollars here to pay salaries and buy domestically produced goods, those dollars become stimulus for the economy without having to print additional dollars and devalue those already in circulation. Then, if those dollars are spent on American workers and American products, we actually wind up recycling the dollars and multiplying its stimulus effect several fold. It could be possible to recycle the $360 billion three, four, five, six times, giving us a trillion dollar-plus stimulus every year for every year that we can avoid importing petroleum oil."

 Rauch is among three panelists who discussed the opportunities and benefits associated with fuels containing higher blends of ethanol. Other panelists include: Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President  and Dale Christensen, Board member of Glacial Lakes Energy.

 "Having this panel at the State Fair will encourage people to use more ethanol and in return better our rural economies," says Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President. "Using more ethanol would enhance the bottom line for family farms."

 For more than three decades, S.D. Farmers Union members have shown their support for the ethanol industry. This support is the motivation behind SDFU's decision, alongside National Farmers Union and other state organizations, to unveil a recent initiative to advance federal policies that support U.S. renewable energy sources including ethanol.

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2017 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees Recognized Today During South Dakota State Fair

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Each year, during the State Fair, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals for their selfless contributions to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride Award.  Today, five individuals from rural communities across South Dakota were recognized. The honorees include: Donna Duffy, Winner; Bob Satter, Irene; Lorelee Nelson, Carthage; Lacey Rippentrop, Tea and Jeff Kreun, Black Hawk.

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

 "One cannot survive without the other," says Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. "Without thriving communities, it's difficult to encourage young people to return to their family's farm or ranch. Rural communities are key to the future of South Dakota's agriculture

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Farmers Feed Nearly 1000 Fairgoers for Only 30 cents During Farmers Union Farmers Share Lunch

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In an effort to educate consumers, family farmers and ranchers treated fairgoers to a 30 cent lunch in the South Dakota Farmers Union tent today at the South Dakota State Fair.

"There is a large gap between prices charged in grocery stores and the actual profits received by farmers and ranchers who raise the ingredients," explains Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union. "We receive pennies on the dollar - even in year like this when markets are down to the point that many farmers and ranchers are actually paying to raise crops and cattle."

 The annual Farmers Share Lunch, sponsored by S.D. Farmers Union at the State Fair is the grassroots organization's attempt to convey this message.

 "State Fair provides us with the opportunity to share our story and explain the investment we make in raising safe and healthy food while at the same time, taking care of our natural resources," says Terry Sestak, District 1 Farmers Union board member and fourth-generation Tabor farmer. "Yes, farming and ranching is a business, we need to make a profit in order to continue feeding the world, however it is also a way of life we value."

 Today, Sestak and several other family farmers and ranchers were able to share this message with consumers as they engaged fairgoers who enjoyed a lunch that would typically cost $10, if it were purchased at a café.

 South Dakota Farmers Union charged only 30 cents - the amount South Dakota farmers and ranchers would receive for the ingredients. The lunch is a pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, potato chips and milk.

 "It's good to have a reminder like this because everyone thinks farmers make all this money," says fairgoer, Sheri Severson, who makes the trek from Aberdeen to Huron to spend a day with her family at the state fair each year. "I'm thankful to our farmers for providing our food for us - I like knowing where my food comes from."

 Fairgoers could donate $1 if they chose. All money collected today will be donated to support S.D. Farmers Union educational programming.

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Panelists Discuss the Upcoming Farm Bill During Rural Issues Discussion at the State Fair

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South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) gave rural community members the opportunity to join the conversation on the upcoming Farm Bill during a panel discussion hosted today at the State Fair.

As the 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire in September 2018, farmers and ranchers of South Dakota are left to wonder how the new legislation will impact their own livelihood, public health and local economies. Included in the three-person panel discussing these concerns were S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke, National Farmers Union Government Relations Representative Matt Perdue and S.D. Farmers Union Vice President, Wayne Soren.

  "As the biggest agriculture fair in South Dakota, the State Fair is a great place to host this discussion because it brings people together from all over the state," Doug Sombke, SDFU President explained. "SDFU knows how much the new Farm Bill will impact the farmers and ranchers we represent. To be a better voice for them, we have to hear their concerns and the issues facing their operations."

 Sombke expressed the importance of discussions that let individuals voice their experiences, needs and concerns with previous and upcoming Farm Bills.

 "As the Farm Bill is being developed, new issues arise," said Sombke. "This panel is a great opportunity to discuss what was good in the last farm bill and what needs to be better in the next Farm Bill.  People are also given a great opportunity to speak directly to our state representatives." 

 Sombke was joined in discussion by Matt Perdue, National Farmers Union Government Relations Representative.

 "We have to communicate to Congress that the 2018 Farm Bill should be written to meet the needs of farmers, ranchers and consumers and not based on arbitrary budget cuts," Perdue said.

 Rural Issues Discussion

Prior to the 2017 State Fair, S.D. Farmers Union hosted several Rural Issues Discussions with family farmers and ranchers in rural communities across the state. For more information on the upcoming events and Farm Bill, visit

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Sunshine Bible Academy FFA Chapter Named Quiz Bowl Champions During Team Up For Safety State Fair Competition

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Sunshine Bible Academy 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: Evan Lopez, Shelby Belmore, Andrew Hoffman and Christopher Hass.

 The team was recognized with a cash prize.

 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.

 "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."

Along with Sunshine Bible Academy other FFA Chapters to compete included; Tri-Valley, Wolsey/Wessington and Viborg/Hurley. These teams qualified for the quiz bowl during the 2017 State FFA Convention held in Brookings this April.

  "You have to have fun with it and you have to learn something," says Tri-Valley FFA member, Levi Burggraff who farms and ranches with his family near Colton and competed on the qualifying team this April. "You need to know what you're doing on a farm, because it's dangerous. You can't be horsing around cattle or machinery. I want to keep things calm...and keep all my limbs."

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Farmers Union Launches Initiative to Expand Ethanol and Biofuel Markets

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Today, South Dakota Farmers Union together with National Farmers Union and other state organizations, unveiled an initiative to advance federal policies that support U.S. renewable energy sources.

 The initiative will promote legislative and regulatory solutions to expand markets for higher blends of ethanol, like E30, and advanced biofuels.

 "While the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) has been good for agriculture and rural America, it's time to put the RFS in the rear view mirror and go further for the future. Stopping at E15 does not improves the price South Dakota's farmers' receive at harvest for the corn they raise," says Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union.  "Agriculture is our states number, one economic driver. When we have an opportunity to boost markets that support our number one industry, we need to take it. That's what this initiative does."

 Sombke said the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) interpretation of the Clean Air Act has restricted the sale of mid-level high-octane fuel.

 "National energy labs have demonstrated that high-octane blends do not impair performance in non-flex fuel or standard vehicles and that use of E30 would reduce harmful emissions more effectively than E10," Sombke explains.

 Anne Steckel, a veteran energy, environment and agriculture policy specialist will be leading National Farmers Union's efforts in Washington, D.C.

 "Federal-level policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) have reaped tremendous gains for the farming and rural communities that grow and produce renewable, bio-based fuels," said Steckel. "NFU will continue its avid support of the RFS and pursue innovative policy solutions that expand renewable energy demand, development and infrastructure."

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Media Advisory: Farmers Union to Roll out Initiative to Expand Use of Ethanol, Advanced Biofuels

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WASHINGTON - The transition to a homegrown, renewable energy future for America is underway. Biofuels, higher blends of ethanol in gasoline, and advanced, bio-based technologies are reaping tremendous benefits for our environment and providing much-needed economic stability to America's farming and rural communities. The U.S. must implement federal-level policies that encourage expanded markets for these energy sources and remove regulatory barriers that inhibit their growth.

To that end, National Farmers Union (NFU), in conjunction with state Farmers Union divisions, will roll out an initiative to advance federal policies that support home grown and home-produced renewable energy sources. NFU President Roger Johnson will be joined by South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke and veteran energy, environment, and agriculture policy specialist Anne Steckel, who will lead the effort.

 WHO: National Farmers Union

 WHAT: NFU Rollout of Ethanol and Advanced Biofuel Initiative

 PARTICIPANTS: Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union

                              Doug Sombke, president, South Dakota Farmers Union

                              Anne Steckel, biofuels advisor, National Farmers Union

 WHERE: 800-875-3456; verbal passcode (spoken to operator): JOHN24548

 WHEN: 10:00 a.m. ET (9 a.m. Central), August 23, 2017

 For more information, contact Andrew Jerome at

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SDFU Foundation $500 Scholarship Applications Due Nov. 1

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 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation will be awarding three $500 scholarships to young people who commit to attending a South Dakota college, university or technical school and are children of parents who are current dues-paying members of South Dakota Farmers Union. 

 Scholarships are available to high school seniors or freshmen currently enrolled in a post-secondary institution in South Dakota.

 "South Dakota Farmers Union is all about building South Dakota's rural communities," says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. "We invest in rural youth from the time they are in early elementary school and old enough to attend County Day Camps."

 Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director, adds, "These scholarships ensure that the young individuals focusing on rural endeavors are supported along the way. Keeping students in South Dakota is important for the legacy and sustainability of rural communities."

 Deadline is Nov. 1. No late or incomplete applications will be accepted.

 Applications can be found on the S.D. Farmers Union website,, at a local Farmers Union cooperative, or through a local Farmers Union Insurance agent.

 If you do not apply through the online application form, all documents should be mailed to: South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Scholarship Committee, PO Box 1388, Huron, SD 57350-1388; and must be postmarked Nov. 1 or before.

 If you have any questions, contact Haigh-Blume at or 605-352-6761, ext.125.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Offers $2,500 Agricultural Graduate School Scholarship 2017

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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 Nov. 15.

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.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Schiley Ranch Family

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Schiley Ranch Family

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

It's a hot June day and Hope Schiley is on Chico, riding out past the tree belt. When her mom and dad drive out to check on their 5-year-old, she is smiling.

 "Just this summer she really started to enjoy riding. It's fun to see her confidence," says Karin, a fourth-generation cattle producer, who like her husband, Roy John "R.J.," has been riding horses since childhood.

 Once Hope is safely home, Karin, 38, and R.J., 39, head out over the open range to check on a group of pairs grazing in a pasture nearby.

 "The best part of the ranching lifestyle is your kids are always with you," Karin says. "We do rotational grazing, so most days the kids and I will go out to check mineral and water or move the cattle from one pasture to the next."

 Married in 2001, the couple has five school-age children: Macy, 13; Cash, 10; Kate, 9; Hope, 5 and Anne, 4.

 A few pasture gates later, the cows come into view.  Content, they barely acknowledge the pickup.

 The bovines are clearly not concerned by the season-long drought which is top of mind for R.J. and Karin.

 It rained last night. The couple hundredths of an inch of moisture was welcomed with optimism that more will follow.

 "Water is the No. 1 thing," R.J. explains. "When I planted crops this spring the soil was bone dry. It is hard to put those dollars-per-acre in dry ground. But, you always need to be optimistic. If we catch half an inch of rain at the right time - that may be all the crops need."

 "You have to have a little bit of faith," Karin adds.

 Optimistic and faithful, Karin and R.J. are also realists.

 The couple explained that the 2017 drought has dictated several management changes.

To read the complete article and view a photo gallery click here.

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Community Heroes Honored & Farmers Feed Fairgoers During 2017 Farmers Union Day at the State Fair

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 S.D. Farmers Union will be busy celebrating South Dakota's family farmers, ranchers and those who give back to their rural communities during the 2017 Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, Sept. 2.

"The State Fair is the perfect place to celebrate the people who make up South Dakota agriculture and a great opportunity to visit with those who are not directly tied to farms and ranches," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle producer.  

The Farmers Share Lunch provides one of the best opportunities for farmers, ranchers and the public to mix and mingle, said Terry Sestak, District 1 Farmers Union board member, and fourth-generation Tabor farmer.

 Held in the Farmers Union Tent directly across from the Freedom Stage, the Farmers Share Luncheon, gives fairgoers an opportunity to learn just how much of the grocery store price tag South Dakota's farmers and ranchers take home after harvesting the crops or livestock they raise.

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2017 Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship Winners will be Recognized During 2017 Farmers Union Day at the S.D. State Fair

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The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation, in cooperation with Farmers Union Insurance Agency, have announced the recipients of the annual Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow scholarships. Scholarship recipients will be recognized during the 2017 South Dakota Farmers Union Day at the State Fair, Sept. 2 on the Freedom Stage across from the Farmers Union Tent.

 Twenty-five high school seniors from across South Dakota will share $25,000 in scholarships to be used to further their education at a South Dakota post-secondary school. 

 Over the past 10 years, the foundation has awarded more than $250,000 in scholarships to students attending South Dakota post-secondary schools.

Each of the 25 scholarship recipients will receive $1,000 to put toward their post-secondary education at a South Dakota college, university or technical school. 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." 

The winners are as follows: Laken Olson, Britton-Hecla High School; Wyatt Ewing, Winner High School; Garrison Gross, Mitchell High School; Hannah Juracek, Gregory High School; Brooklyn Halverson, Lyman High School; Seth Overbay, Huron High School; Ellen Schlechter, Faulkton High School; Kaihlen Smith, Mitchell High School;  Sopie McKee, Yankton High School; Shannon Fanning, Scotland High School; Jacey Anderberg, Yankton High School; MaKenzie Dean, Parker High School; Evan Steers, Miller High School; Timothy Paris, Rapid City Central High School; Mallory Trapp, Milbank High School; Kindra Clark, Garretson High School; Kate Katterhagen, Yankton High School; Kristan Soukup, Wagner Community School; Tori Gaer, Newell High School; Jadyn Woodward, Dupree High School; April Hoffman, Leola High School;  Janae Gustafson, Ethan High School; Kaylee Braun, Ipswich High School; Drew DeMers, Winner High School and Grace Geohring, Selby Area High School.

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Trip Rewards Youth Leadership; Packs in Co-Op Education and Fun

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By Toby Kane, for South Dakota Farmers Union

 In this day of social media and the digital world, a lot can happen in a day.

But for three days, July 6-8, 18 juniors and seniors from across South Dakota learned countless real-world things about cooperatives. The Minnesota trip rewarded their completion of three years of leadership activities through South Dakota Farmers Union.

South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director Rachel Haigh-Blume says, "It's important for them to see how cooperatives work in urban environments and get new ideas. Seeing different types of cooperatives first hand really open their minds."

One such cooperative was a housing initiative started by students at the University of Minnesota. The trip also included stops at an organic food cooperative, CHS Inc. and REI consumer cooperative, where students had the opportunity to ask questions, get professional and internship advice, and see each in action.

 Justin Goetz, a 16-year-old junior from Selby, says, "I learned a lot from touring all the different types of co-ops out there. I especially loved learning more about CHS. It really opened my eyes to how much more goes into farming then just what the farmer does."

 "The whole experience has helped me as a leader and how I can really help with the cooperatives in my own community," says junior Bree Weidenbach, a 17-year-old from Canistota. "I can teach others in my school and help them understand the benefits and join up." 

 To emphasize the importance of the trip, Haigh-Blume adds, "When farming in hard times, it's good for the kids to know there are other business models out there, like a cooperative to help keep small towns well as have a little fun." 

 Goetz agrees, "Going to the Twins game and getting behind the scenes was not only an amazing experience but also a learning venture too."  


Youth who attended three-year cooperative education trip to Minneapolis include: back row, left to right: Megan Hanson, Britton; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Abby Dethlefsen, Stickney; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Haley Keizer, Plankinton; Jennifer Hanson, Britton; Caleb Nugteren, Canistota; Hannah Sumption, Frederick; Bree Weidenbach, Canistota; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Nick Snedeker, Woonsocket; Skylar Cox, Frederick; Justin Goetz, Herreid; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; and Joseph Nugteren, Canistota. Front row, left to right: Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Cassidy Keller, Cansitota; and Katherine Oberembt, Ethan.

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S.D. Farmers Union 2017 Junior Advisory Team Our Everyday Heroes

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by Christina Dexter, SDFU Communications Specialist

The 2017-2018 Junior Advisory Council were elected during Farmers Union State Leadership Camp. From left to right they include: Hannah Sumption, Frederick; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; and Haley Keizer, Plankinton.

What is an everyday hero? This was a question considered by campers during the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Leadership Camp as they elected a six-member Junior Advisory Council (JACs).

 Before ballots were handed out, campers were asked to discuss what being an everyday hero meant to them and how they could be an everyday hero in the lives of others. During the week-long camp, campers had the opportunity to put their thoughts into action, serving as everyday heroes in the lives of dozens of hungry families by assisting Feeding America. As a team, campers helped pack hundreds of pounds of food to be distributed to families in need.

 "This year I really hope that campers take away the importance of being someone's everyday hero," explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director. "You can have a large impact on your neighbors without having to spend a lot of money.  Our time at Feeding America hopefully showed the campers how much you can accomplish together in little time."

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Springer Farm Family

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by Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 Rock hound and fourth-generation Dixon farmer, Terry Springer, 65, says when he's outdoors he's always on the lookout for a stone that catches his eye.

 "Ever since I was a little boy, I've been walking around with my head down," explains Terry, who over a lifetime has amassed a rare and extensive rock collection.

Terry's collection boasts ancient arrow heads, mammoth bones, fossilized wood, rose quartz, moss rock and other unique geologic specimens.

 Many of the rocks were discovered on the land his great-grandparents and great-great-uncle first farmed in the early 1900s - the land where today, he and his brother, Wayne, 60, continue the family's farming legacy. Together they raise corn, small grains, forage and a cow/calf-to-finish-direct-marketing beef operation, Springer Farms.

"I like living in the country and being my own boss. I enjoy working with cattle and being out working in nature," says Wayne, who at 19 bought the farm neighboring the land his great-great-uncle Hans homesteaded near Gregory. 

When the neighbors were ready to retire, Wayne explains that they asked him if he was interested in the land because they knew he would take care of it.

 "Even in the late '70s investors were buying up farm ground around here. They sold the land to me because, in their own words, "they wanted their farm to remain a working farm and didn't want it to become an abandoned homestead,'" Wayne says.

 He adds that the land he owns was originally purchased by his great-grandfather Carl in 1904, one year after it was homesteaded. 

 Carl lost the farm during the Dirty Thirties.

The brothers can empathize with the challenges their grandfather faced.

To read more and view the photo gallery, click here

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South Dakota Farmers Union Applauds USDA Decision to Allow for Emergency Haying in Upper Great Plains

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HURON, S.D. - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture,  Sonny Perdue authorized the release of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota for emergency haying. The announcement follows urgent requests from National Farmers Union (NFU), state Farmers Union divisions, agriculture groups and legislators for the USDA to address severe drought conditions in the Upper Great Plains.

 South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, was among a group of state Farmers Union presidents who sent a letter to Perdue June 20, 2017, urging him to release CRP acres.

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