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S.D. Farmers Union Requests Release of CRP Acres for Livestock Feed

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South Dakota Farmers Union joins with other drought-stricken states in requesting that Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres be released for livestock owners to utilize as forage to feed their animals.

 "This drought is a natural disaster - creating a situation where many of South Dakota's livestock producers are running out of grass and other forages to feed their animals," said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth-generation crop and livestock producer from Conde.

 On June 20, 2017, Sombke, along with the president of National Farmers Union and presidents of Farmers Union organizations from the drought-stricken states of North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, with this request.

 The letter reads as follows:

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S.D. Farmers Union Announces their Support for Non-Meandered Water Draft Legislation

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S.D. Farmers Union Announces their Support for Non-Meandered Water Draft Legislation
HURON, S.D. - S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, says the organization supports 5 Open Compromise, the non-meandered water draft legislation discussed by the Interim Committee for Regulation of Non-meandered Waters held May 24, 2017 in Pierre.
"Now that we have had time to review the proposed draft, our organization will endorse the legislation, as long as legislators understand that there are still some issues which need to be addressed," said Sombke, a fourth-generation crop and livestock farmer from Conde.

Sombke explains that this draft is relevant to the South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers S.D. Farmers Union represents because these waters cover land these agriculture producers own - land which they can no longer raise livestock or crops on.

In fact, non-meandered waters impact South Dakota's number one industry enough that the organization hired a Natural Resources attorney, David Ganje, to provide information to help draft language to be used in the a bill.

"Farmers and ranchers should not be tasked with the expense related to taking care of public water on land that they can no longer earn a profit from," said Sombke. "Our organization would like to see landowners compensated for public water in similar way as those landowners who allow access on their land for hunting and other outdoor activities via CREP a state run public access program."

Proposed Legislation 5 Open Compromise was released for review May 23, just one day before the public committee hearing held May 24. Sombke hopes that two more issues are addressed during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Uniform Taxation of Non-Meandered Lands: "Each county taxes non-meandered lands differently and they need to be taxed equally state-wide," Sombke explained.
Township and county roads maintenance: "This was not addressed and needs to be. Road maintenance from increased recreational traffic to and from non-meandered waters or caused by the public waters, should not be the responsibility of the county or township - the state needs to provide compensation," Sombke said.
Sombke was encouraged to see several of the ideas which were brought forward by Ganje, on behalf of S.D. Farmers Union, are being addressed in this draft.

"I understand that taxation and road maintenance are not emergency issues that need to be addressed this summer, but they do need to be addressed before the end of the 2018 session," Sombke said.

Below, Sombke lists eight sections which need to be included in the bill because it directly impacts South Dakota's family farmers, ranchers and their rural communities.
Eight points that impact S.D. Farmers & Ranchers
1. A Quiet Zone based upon Distance and Times of the Day;
2. A Setback Rule based upon Distance and Type of Weapon;
3. Statute Requiring Adoption of Rules by GF&P for Recreational Use;
4. Statute Excluding Certain Use of Non-Meandered Waters;
5. Ramp Lease Matter - In prior, proposed bills there was discussion of state ramp and access agreements with landowners who border on or hold title to lake bottoms or surrounding lands on non-meandered waters;
6. Uniform Taxation of Non-Meandered Lands. This is not addressed in the current draft;
7. Landowner Liability Matter; and
8. Township and county roads maintenance by deprivation to access water. This is not addressed in the current draft.

To become a part of the conversation on non-meandered water and its impact on South Dakota farmers and ranchers, contact S.D. Farmers Union Executive Director, Karla Hofhenke at 605-352-6761 ext. 114.
Media Contact:
Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director, S.D. Farmers Union
605-352-6761 ext. 114

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S.D. Farmers Union Jr. REAL Speaker Focuses on Overcoming Adversity

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Wilson Kubwayo's presentation to S.D. Farmers Union Jr. REAL students at Freeman High School begins with a song he calls "the fun song." But it's not a simple song. And his is not a simple story.

Starting the beat with handclaps, he sings a few lines, encourages the crowd to join in, breaks into a rap verse and finishes with some show-stopping dance moves. The audience of juniors and seniors goes wild. Kubwayo's energy is infectious. He is happy. That itself is impressive given his unlikely journey to the United States.

 At age 2, Kubwayo and his family fled the small African country of Burundi when it was torn apart by a civil war. They migrated to a refugee camp in Tanzania where Wilson lived until age 13. "Living in that camp taught me lessons no man can teach," says Kubwayo. "I always thought if I just had an easier life, I would have a good life and then I would be able to do great things."

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Martinmaas Farm Family

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South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state's No. 1 industry and help feed the world. This month we feature the Martinmaas farm family from Orient. Ray and Becky Martinmaas pictured here.

by Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

During a blizzard nearly 65 years ago, a neighbor knocked on Bill and Wanelda Martinmaas' door. His wife was in labor and things were not going well. Bill started up his John Deere A and drove with his young wife the half mile to help.

 On Bill's way home, his tractor got stuck. It was dark. Driving wind mixed with snow made it impossible to see. Bill was lost.

 "I had the young kids at home. I thought of those kids in the house and knew I needed to get home to them or they would freeze," says Bill, who at 90, vividly recalls the story.

 "Dad walked for quite a while, then he tripped over something. He realized he tripped over the top wire of a barbed wire fence and figured out where he was. He followed that fence and made it home," says Ray, 67, Bill's oldest son.

 At the time, Ray was 3, his brother, Randy, was 2 and their sister, Sandy, was just a baby.

 In the end, the neighbor and her baby survived. And the three Martinmaas kids? They eventually became 12. Six boys and six girls ­ Ray, Randy, Sandy, Kathy, Paulette, Rick, Lonnie, Lori, Julie, Mike, Marylynn and Brad.

 Today, standing outside the farmhouse Ray shares with his wife, Becky, father and son recall the early years.

To read more and view the photo gallery, click here

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Farmers Union Now Taking Nominations for 2017 Rural Dakota Pride Awards

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South Dakota winters can be brutal. Foot Hills Kiwanas Club ensures that children in need of warm winter coats have them before the cold winds blow.

 "Kids shouldn't suffer in the winter. We make sure kids in need have a new winter coat. You know they love them because the day they come in to pick them out, it is typically too warm to wear a coat, and yet they don't want to take their new coat off," explains Sharon Wilson, a charter member of the organization.

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FFA Members Teaming Up to Take Precaution During Farmers Union Team Up For Safety Quiz Bowl

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Anyone who has lived on a farm or ranch has heard the stories. An injury from a grain auger. An accidental fire or deadly gas exposure. Some of us have seen tragedy first hand. There's nothing fun about these realities, but South Dakota Farmers Union is taking a fun approach to helping prevent them.

Each year, the Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl challenges high school students from South Dakota FFA chapters to compete in a game show format with questions such as: What kind of fire extinguisher should you keep in a combine? What does Hydrogen Sulfide smell like? Or, What is the leading cause of weather-related deaths?

 South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume says, "Anything you can do to promote safety to the next generation is so important. You can't emphasize it enough, no matter the age."

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Tee Off for Education During 2017 S.D. Farmers Union Golf Tournament June 20

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Mark your calendars for a day of fun between planting and harvest by joining S.D. Farmers Union for the annual Dakota Prairie Open Golf Tournament June 20, 2017.

 "A guy needs a day off once in a while - why not spend a day golfing with friends to raise money for educational programming," said Wayne Soren, a Lake Preston farmer and S.D. Farmers Union Vice President.

 Held in Mitchell at the Lakeview Golf Course, the 18-hole scramble begins at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start. Registration includes lunch and prizes on every hole. All event proceeds go to the S.D. Farmers Union Foundation to help fund educational programming.    

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No Better Place to Raise Kids: South Dakota Farm & Ranch Moms Share Their Parenting Philosophy

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As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother's Day, South Dakota Farmers Union would like to celebrate the many women who support the state's No. 1 industry - farm and ranch moms!

 Read on to learn the story of two mothers representing two generations born and raised on South Dakota farms and ranches. These women share their story and reflect on raising children on their South Dakota farm or ranch. 

 By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

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Farm Bill, E30 and Membership Focus of Lyman County Farmers Union Meeting

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A large crowd of Lyman County family farmers and ranchers gathered for a Farmers Union listening session April 3, 2017.

 "Times are tough in agriculture right now. We saw a need to remind everyone of the voice we have through Farmers Union," said David Reis, a third-generation Reliance rancher and Lyman County Farmers Union President. "We also needed a little pick-me-up membership-wise."

 Reis explains that Lyman County membership in the state-wide farm organization had waned. The Farmers Union Elevator traditionally had paid annual memberships.  "During the good years, people didn't feel the need for farm organizations like Farmers Union and membership declined," he said. "With the recent downturn in the Ag economy, farmers and ranchers realize membership is more important than ever."

 Several members renewed their membership during the meeting. "We know Farmers Union is our voice, not only in Pierre but in Washington D.C.," Reis said. "We need this voice. If we don't tell our leadership what we need, they will assume we don't need anything or they will decide for us - and that does not usually work out well for South Dakota's farmers and ranchers."

 E30 & New Farm Bill

"In order to be the voice of our members, we need to listen and clearly understand the issues impacting them - not only on their farms and ranches, but in their rural communities as well," Sombke said. "Family farmers and ranchers are struggling right now. Anything that we can do as an organization to support them and policy that will drive up demand and commodity prices - we will do."

President of Lyman County Farmers Union, David Reis (far right), presents during a recent quarterly meeting. Also pictured, Doug Sombke (far left), President of S.D. Farmers Union and Joel Keierleber, S.D. Farmers Union board member.

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Farmers Union Insurance Agent & 101-Year-Old Lifetime Member Share Their Story

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Listen to Julian sing "God Bless America" 

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

 Sixty-eight years ago, during a Farmers Union Local 738 meeting, Verna Holter's husband, Julian, asked a question that would change her life.

 "I heard Julian ask, "could my wife be an insurance agent?' I could hardly believe my ears,'" recalls Verna, who was a rural school teacher at the time. "The speaker was explaining to us how Farmers Union was recruiting members to sell insurance. He looked just as surprised as me. But, he said, "yes.'"

 Verna became the first female Farmers Union insurance agent in South Dakota ­ and perhaps the nation.

 She sold insurance for 56 years, retiring in 2005.

 Prompted by a bad personal experience she and Julian had encountered with a crop insurance agent just a few years prior, Verna set out to do the best for her clients. "I always made sure they understood what they were buying."

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Mendel Farm Family of Doland

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Mendel Farm Family of Doland 

South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state's No. 1 industry and help feed the world. Thismonthwe highlight theMendel farmfamily of Doland. Pictured here left to right: Dave, Judy, Don, Lavonne, Grace, Miles, Jill, Merrit, Shem, 4, and Leon Brondsema.

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Don Mendel was 9 when his dad first let him drive the gray Ford Ferguson tractor across the field. He wasn't unsupervised. His dad, Joe, was beside him pulling a two-bottom plow with a team of five-work horses.

 "Dad liked horses and kept them around longer than lots of the neighbors," explains the 83-year-old Doland farmer. "He put me on that Ford tractor and would let me drive as fast as he was going with those horses. We would plow together and thought we were turning over a lot of ground."

 Retired since 2000, Don can still be found driving machinery across the fields that his twin sons, Merrit and Miles, 45, now manage with the help of his grandsons and four employees.

 "Farming is in our blood," Don says.

 His brother, Dave, agrees.

 Don's farming partner since 1972 and now, also retired, Dave, like Don, spends most days on the farm helping his nephews out. "I always enjoyed working on the farm," says Dave, 67.

Although he was pursuing a teaching degree, when he returned from serving in Vietnam, he decided he'd rather farm. "I saw more of a future in agriculture. Even back then, South Dakota was very near the bottom of the teacher pay scale," says Dave, who together with his wife, Judy, raised their three, now-grown children, Jason (deceased), Audrey and Seth; and now-grown grandson, Jason, on the farm.

To read more, click here

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S.D. Farmers Union President Urges Trump to Reinstate COOL for Public Health Reasons

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke joins National Farmers Union in urging President Trump to reinstate Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) of beef and other meat products for public health reasons.

 "Without COOL, consumers don't know where their meat is raised or processed. The recent Brazilian meat scandal just affirms the fact that we need to label meat for public health reasons," said Sombke, of the scandal where a chemical was added to meat processed in Brazil to mask the fact the meat was rancid. "The World Trade Organization should not determine which foods and labeled and which are not. Not labeling meat is a public health concern."

This week the Trump Administration released a list of 24 trade practices, including COOL, that trade negotiators should prioritize in future negotiations. 

 In 2015, COOL was repealed by Congress after a lengthy World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Canada and Mexico and pressure from multinational meatpackers. Faced with either making the law compliant by switching it to a voluntary system, paying more than $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs, or repealing the law, Congress chose to repeal the law. And when doing so, they even removed COOL labels from meats like ground beef and ground pork that were never at issue with the WTO.

 A grassroots organization, National Farmers Union is following policy put in place by states organizations, like S.D. Farmers Union and is urging the administration to keep COOL on the list. And, to ensure a reinstatement of COOL would be allowable under any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

  "For 30 years, NFU has championed Country-of-Origin Labeling, and we strongly believe the issue is important to American producers and consumers alike," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "American producers raise the best beef and pork in the world, and they believe consumers should be able to know where the meat at the grocery store came from. President Trump should stick up for American consumers and producers by ensuring COOL is a priority for his administration's trade negotiations."

 Supporting South Dakota's Beef Industry

Sombke said that along with maintaining a safe food supply, the reinstatement of COOL will support South Dakota's beef industry. An industry which accounts for $3.12 billion dollars in the state, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture 2012 census data.

 "South Dakota producers invest heavily in raising a safe, quality beef supply. If the meat they raised is labeled, it prevents our cattle producers from taking a hit when meat from foreign countries is deemed unsafe," Sombke said.

 Sombke urges South Dakotans to reach out to the state's representatives in D.C. and encourage them to urge Trump to reinstate COOL. To learn more about Farmers Union efforts to reinstate COOL, visit their website,

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National Farmers Union Supports Use of E30 in All Fuel Injected Vehicles

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March 13, 2017
National Farmers Union Supports Use of E30 in All Fuel Injected Vehicles
HURON, S.D. - National Farmers Union called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open the market to higher blends of ethanol in a landmark resolution passed during the National Farmers Union annual meeting held in San Diego March 5-8, 2017.

"National Farmers Union, as an organization, considers increased ethanol use one of the most important demand drivers for American agriculture," said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "Members are taking a stand against EPA regulations that limit the use of ethanol blends in non-flex vehicles."

South Dakota Farmers Union is one of 33 state affiliates which make up the grassroots National Farmers Union organization.

"Ethanol is a critically important part of our future and higher ethanol blends are key to creating demand for ethanol and corn," Sombke said. "EPA and all government regulators should immediately reverse statements and policies that unfairly limit the amount of ethanol we can put in our cars."

The resolution brought forward by the South Dakota Farmers Union delegation to the convention promotes the use of higher blended fuels, like Premium E30. "We see this as a continued effort to continue efforts to expand retail fuels infrastructure and to further support the Renewable Fuel Standard," Sombke explained.

In conjunction with these efforts, National Farmers Union has recently filed legal comments challenging EPA's invalid, arbitrary and capricious overreach with its interpretation of the Clean Air Act, which limits ethanol volumes to 10 or at most 15 percent.

In addition to actively supporting this policy during the National Farmers Union convention, South Dakota Farmers Union worked diligently during the 2017 Legislative Session to support the passage of a resolution which supports the use of Premium E30 in state-owned vehicles.

Since the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, the Governor's Office has already begun to solicit bids for the supply of Premium E30.

"South Dakota Farmers Union has long been a leader in the development of ethanol," Sombke said. "Our state has produced many national leaders who have supported the ethanol industry over the years, including former U.S. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle."

In a speech he gave to attendees of the Siouxland Ethanol Annual meeting, Daschle said public policy initiatives for ethanol helped create an industry that reduced U.S. oil imports by $20 billion in 2016 and contributed nearly $50 billion to the nation's economy.

"What I want to get across is how dynamic the ethanol industry is and how we need to build on our success of the past," Daschle said. "We passed the Clean Air Act Amendments and that gave us a threshold. We passed the Renewable Fuel Standard and that gave us an opportunity, catalytically, to see the explosion of the industry."

The National Farmers Union resolution comes at a time when there is increased interest nationally in the benefits of higher ethanol volumes such as a 30 percent volume blend (Premium E30).

Data shows Premium E30 Works in Non-Flex Fuel Vehicles
Premium E30 is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Energy as a potentially optimum blend level.

Data collected during a recent Glacial Lakes Energy's E30 Challenge, Watertown, South Dakota showed that non-flex fuel vehicles run better on E30 than flex fuel vehicles.

"This high octane, cleaner burning fuel is available at a lower cost and provides consumer choice while supporting local communities," said Brad Brunner, Ethanol Marketing Manager Glacial Lakes Energy.

"We also see this as a way to achieve reduced governmental regulation," Sombke added. "These actions by our state and national organization, highlight continued efforts to seek greater market access for higher blended fuels. It is the position of both organizations that rural economies and consumers across the nation have much to gain in such actions."

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Deadline for $1,000 Farmers Union Insurance Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship is April 15, 2017

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Each year, South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation, in cooperation with Farmers Union Insurance Agency, gives $1,000 scholarships to 25 South Dakota high school students. The deadline for scholarship applications is April 15, 2017. 

Scholarships can be used to put toward students' post-secondary education at a South Dakota college, university or technical school. Recipients are selected 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.

Since 2006, Farmers Union Insurance agents throughout the state have funded this scholarship program which is administered by the Farmers Union Foundation. Over the last 11 years, more than $250,000 in scholarship dollars have been awarded.

"Our insurance agents are committed to building a brighter future in South Dakota," said Jason Wells, Regional Manager of Farmers Union Insurance Agency.  

To apply for the Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow scholarship, click here

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Lee Farm Family from De Smet

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Lee Farm Family from De Smet

South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s No. 1 industry and help feed the world. This month, we celebrate the Lee farm family who raise crops and cattle near De Smet. Pictured here: Kaitlyn, Landon, Roger, Rob and Mary.

  By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 Farming brings the Lee family joy. Enjoying the work and time together on the land is essential for this De Smet farm family.

 “We have told our kids this for years, as long as we can farm and have fun with it, we will continue to do it,” explains Roger Lee, 62, who farms with his wife, Mary, and their three grown children, Rob, Landon and Amanda.

 Forty years ago, fun would hardly be the term an outsider would use to describe the beginning of Roger’s farming career.

 Only a few years into farming fulltime, his dad, Ephriam, passed away, leaving Roger, at 21 to milk the family’s dairy herd and farm with his mom, Dorothy. It was 1976. A year later a drought and lack of feed forced him to sell their dairy herd.

 Roger’s affection for farming kept him going, even when interest rates reached 23 percent.

 “I always knew I wanted to farm. I liked farming. It wasn’t the money-making part of it, I just knew I wanted to be on the farm. If I didn’t like it, I would have been gone,” says the third-generation farmer, who instead of heading off to college after high school, bought his first half section of land from his parents.

 At 18, he bought his second half section from a neighbor. “(At the time) I was the youngest FHA (Farmers Home Administration) real estate borrower in Kingsbury County,” Roger says. “Dad had to sign a form saying I could use his barn and equipment. Dad and Mom were always fair to me.”

 With farm income nil, Roger and his wife, Mary, were able to keep up with land payments by working off the farm.

 To read more, click here

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S.D. Farmers Union President Elected Chairman of Farmers Union Enterprises

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Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union was recently Elected Chairman of Farmers Union Enterprises board of directors.

 "I am eager to continue to guide this organization whose goal is to do everything we can to help family farmers and ranchers," said Sombke, of the organization which oversees Farmers Union Industries.

 Farmers Union Industries is made up of several businesses - the dividends of which go to help fund Farmers Union organizations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin as well as Farmers Union Enterprise programs and National Farmers Union.

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Orient and Seneca Youth Say Involvement in Farmers Union Prepared them for College

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Jesse Carlson, Seneca, and Reece Schultz, Orient, were selected to serve on the 2016-2017 Senior Advisory Council during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre December 2016.

 In this role, Carlson, a freshman studying Economics at South Dakota State University, and Schultz, a freshman studying Production Innovation at Dakota State University, will provide advice and act as mentors to the six members of the Farmers Union Youth Advisory Council. The Youth Advisory Council helps organize and plan Farmers Union State Leadership camp each year.

 Below, the college students visit about what they look forward to in this new leadership role and discuss how the personal leadership development and communication skills they developed through Farmers Union educational programming has helped them during their first year of college.

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Taylor Aubrey Receives S.D. Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Scholarship

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Her passion for being around livestock and the people who depend upon them for their livelihood is what attracted Taylor Aubrey to pursue a master's degree focused on dairy production.

 "I enjoy working with producers and the close connection to our food system," explains the South Dakota State University graduate student and the 2017 recipient of the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation $2,500 Graduate Scholarship.

 Developed to support students pursuing graduate degrees in agriculture, the SDFU Foundation scholarship is one of several scholarships the grassroots organization sponsors each year.

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Two PE Teachers Working Together to Keep the Family Farm

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Feb. 2, 2017
Two PE Teachers Working Together to Keep the Family Farm: The Story of the GooseMobile 

Sixty-four years ago Ruth (Iburg) and Tom Neuberger embarked on their life's adventure together beginning with a road-trip from South Dakota to Ft. Benning, Georgia, where Tom's orders were awaiting them.

Along the way, the State College graduates took in several collegiate football games. Not your typical honeymoon, but perfect entertainment for two physical education teachers.

Before the couple became known for the GooseMobile, their Canistota-based, direct marketing, farm-to-table business, they were commuting to their first job together as high school physical education teachers.

It was 1955 and gym classes looked much different than they do today. "The girls all wore navy blue uniforms and when I taught aerobics, I had a piano accompanist," Ruth says.

She begins to giggle at the memory of leading the class of 90 girls through a routine ­ balanced on a raised platform about the size of her kitchen table. "I was responsible for teaching 550 girls. This job taught me a lot about organization skills I ended up utilizing years later when I was manager of the Downtown Farmers Market."

Not long after her stint as a PE teacher, Ruth gave up her career to stay at home with the couple's only son, Tim.
"We were only blessed with one child and it took us a long time, so I was determined to stay home," Ruth explains.

Tom, in the meantime, was building his career as a collegiate wrestling coach.

By the time his dad, Walter, called to say he was ready to retire and ask if Tom wanted to take over the family farm, Tom was the athletic director, basketball coach and soccer coach at Concordia Lutheran College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"Dad was old school. He said, 'Because you are the oldest, you get the first opportunity,'" explains Tom. "Growing up, my interest was sports. I had no real interest in agriculture. I grew up on this farm, but for my future, why, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach."

A couple of faith, they prayed for wisdom. In the end, it was their middle-school-age son, Tim, who tipped the scale.

"It was the early 70s and in Ann Arbor, it was a time of free love. Even the junior high students were demanding smoking rooms. I wanted to get out of there before my one and only child was polluted by these crazy ideas," Ruth explains.

Although Tom had not planned to return to the farm, he could see the value in moving his family back to South Dakota and in the end, he says the skills he developed as a coach proved invaluable back on the farm.

"When I was coaching, I had a bunch of human beings who I was trying to organize and do the right things with to get them to win. Now, on the farm, here I am, working with cows, pigs, sheep and poultry organizing them to make it work," Tom explained.

And it did work.

That is, until the Farm Crisis of the late 70s and early 80s hit.

Tom figured out the farm could provide for the family if they built up their livestock operation to 100 cows, 100 pigs and 100 sheep. When the markets fell, it didn't take long before the 20 percent interest they were paying on the livestock loan caught up with them.

"I farmed the way my dad did. Then one day I was doing the bookwork and I figured out that we had paid more interest than we'd gotten paid. We had to do something different," Tom says.

Instead of returning to his coaching career, Tom became determined to stick it out and make things work.

This decision didn't surprise Ruth.

"When he was a wrestler in college he had one record. He never got pinned," Ruth explains. "He is a strong-willed person; he will work, and work, and work, until it works."

They began selling off the cattle and started looking into direct marketing.

"I liked to garden so I thought, 'Why not?'" Ruth says.

A people person, Ruth enjoyed the weekly trip to sell her garden vegetables at the Sioux Falls Farmers Market.

"The reason we've been so successful with direct marketing is more her than me. She is more of a people person than I am," Tom explains. "Customers will call in an order and then visit with Ruth for 15 or 20 minutes."

Not shy about their personality differences, Ruth explains that the reason they have worked so well together on the farm for nearly 45 years is that they share a strong faith, keeping God at the center of their marriage, and they each focus on their niche. "We help each other when we need help," Ruth explains. "But we each have our own way of doing things."

Farmers Markets were a rather new concept in 1978, and the Downtown Farmers Market in Sioux Falls had a few growing pains to work through.

Ruth became the group's first chairperson, organized committees and on Tom's urging, worked to develop a price structure for all vendors which was fair.

"Tom said, 'You got to make money. You need to help organize the members so you are not all competing against each other.'"

While Ruth was building up their direct market business, Tom began rebuilding the farm with poultry ­ geese, chickens and turkeys. There was not an independent poultry processing plant in the area; he started a poultry processing plant in Humboldt.

From the start, the couple determined that the livestock they raised would be free range, grass-fed and raised without hormones or antibiotics.

So, when Ruth read an article that geese are an almost disease-free animal and Tom learned that there was an international export market, they didn't hesitate. The first year they raised 1,000 geese.

The goose export market closed a few years later. So, for a few years, the couple joined with other South Dakota geese producers and purchased small refrigerator trucks and direct marketed the meat to rural communities.

"The GooseMobile was not started by us, but by the members of the South Dakota Goose Association. In those days, South Dakota was the number one goose-producing state in the nation. When the organization dissolved, we bought them out and kept the GooseMobile routes going," Tom explained.

Over the years the GMO-free, grass fed, free range meat niche meat business evolved.

Eventually demand for their meat products began to grow among their produce customers. At first it was up to Ruth and Tom to educate their customers on the value of their naturally raised meat. Today, their customers educate themselves and have introduced some unique value-added opportunities.

"It's so funny: today we sell bones and fat and we never used to," says Ruth, of the products purchased to make homemade broth.

Today, at 85 and 86, the couple is looking to slow down, sell their business and after 64 years of marriage, embark on yet another adventure together.

To listen to Tom and Ruth visit about their life together and The GooseMobile, visit after February 15, 2017 and click on the Radio Show link.

Courtesy of S.D. Farmers Union
Sixty-four years ago Ruth (Iburg) and Tom Neuberger embarked on their life's adventure together. Today, at 85 and 86, the couple is looking to slow down, sell their business, The GooseMobile, and embark on yet another adventure together.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Kenzy Ranch Family

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By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 Ralph Kenzy used to tell his sons, “You can’t put it all in your pocketbook.”

 “He meant that agriculture is a lot more than money,” explains his oldest son, Brett, 45. “You get to be on the land, raising your kids. You get to work with crops and cattle. You’re never going to get rich ranching … there’s more than dollar bills that make you rich.”

 Brett has worked on the family ranch since childhood ­except for a short break to serve in the Army and attend college. “I came back because I missed the community, the home base, this tie to the land,” Brett explains.

 His brother, George, 40, adds:  “My dream was always here.”

 Like his older brother, George only left the Gregory ranch long enough to get a degree ­ and even when they were college students, the fourth-generation cattle producers drove home to work every weekend.

 Listening to the brothers/business partners visit about raising their children and cattle on the family’s ranch, it is clear that Ralph’s philosophy lives on through his sons. Ralph passed away in 2012.

 “I kind of figured they would come home to ranch because they were home every weekend to work,” says their mom, Millie.

 To read more, click here. 

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