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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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Alexandria Farmer Shares Her Thoughts on Faith, Family, Farming and Outreach

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It was the first day of school 2006 and LeAnn's phone rang. Her son, Chet's, preschool teacher was calling.

 "She said, 'LeAnn I think we have a problem. At the end of the day Chet packed up his bag and said, 'Thanks Mrs. Lanners. I had a great day, but I won't be back.'" 

 Taking the conversation in stride, LeAnn (Neugebauer) Moe met Chet as he got off the bus and set about showing the four-year-old the value of education by making connections between school and their family's Alexandria farm.

 "We asked him to count the cows in the pasture, reminding him that in school he will learn how to count. We asked him if he wanted to help the guys spray in the field and then explained that he needed to learn science to do that.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Mehling 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 number one industry and help feed the world. This month, we feature the Mehling family who raise crops and cattle southwest of Wessington. 

by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Ask Greg Mehling, 53, what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child and without hesitation he names the miniature thrashing machine his dad built for him.

“The summer Greg was 6 we took him to Prairie Village. He came home needing a thrashing machine, so I worked in the garage every night until Christmas,” recalls Greg’s dad, Roy, 74.

The fourth-generation farmer’s early introduction to farm equipment didn’t stop with toys. By 7, Greg was driving a tractor. “Farming’s kinda in my blood. I enjoy it,” he explains.

After a brief detour to Lake Area Technical Institute and a few job interviews, Greg knew that even though times were tough, farming was the only career for him.

“It was the 80s, so the farming deal wasn’t really good, but after a few job interviews, I knew that farming was the only work I wanted to do,” Greg explains.

To read more, click here 

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South Dakota Farmers Union Awards $500 Scholarships to Three South Dakota Youth

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During the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre Dec. 8-9, South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awarded three $500 scholarships to young people committed 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.

 The scholarship recipients are Haley Bialas, Dimock; Reece Schulte, Orient; and Samuel Schumacher, Stickney.

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Tracy Chase Recognized with S.D. Farmers Union 2016 Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award

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When it comes to providing opportunities for McCook county youth, the 2016 recipient of the S.D. Farmers Union Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award, Tracy Chase, doesn't say 'no.' 

 She said 'yes' when the High School Agriculture Education Instructor, Terry Rieckman, asked the science teacher to take on some agriculture education classes. "He said, 'What do you think about us working together?' FFA provides great opportunities for students, so I began teaching Animal Science, Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources classes,'" recalls Chase, who grew up on a McCook County dairy farm.

 Twelve years ago, she also said 'yes' when Farmers Union District 2 President, Jim Wahl, asked if she would serve as the Education Director for McCook County. "You have to provide opportunities for kids and South Dakota Farmers Union does just that," says Tracy, of why she accepted the additional responsibility.

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Rural Youth Recognized with 2016 S.D. Farmers Union Torchbearer Award During S.D. Farmers Union State Convention

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Rural youth were recognized today for their commitment to community and leadership skills with the Torchbearer Award during an awards banquet held during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre, Dec. 8-9, 2016.

 Torchbearer is the highest level for South Dakota Farmers Union Education Achievement. This achievement showcases the time and dedication campers have given over the years to the education department as well as the communities they have served. A special thanks to their families whom supported this process and ensured campers were able to attend camp and other activities.

 "South Dakota Farmers Union invests in youth starting at a young age to ensure the next generation of leaders in our rural communities. We appreciate these youth and their families who have invested in this program and are dedicated to the traditions and skills the program embeds in the students," said S.D. Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume.

 The 2016 Torchbearers include; Madelyn Kline, Huron, daughter of Neal and Kristin Kline; Jonah Murtha, Parkston, son of Becky and Kevin Murtha; Shaun Snedeker, Woonsocket, son of Mark and Lisa Snedeker; Cole Van Gorp, Stickney, son of Randy and Jan Van Gorp; Abbey Tschetter, Huron, daughter of Lisa Tschetter; Braeden Walton, son of Scott and Lisa Walton, Mitchell and Reece Schulte, son of Mark and Jil Schulte, Orient.

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S.D. Farmers Union President Supports Farmer Fair Practices Rules

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke supports today's

 announcement that the Farmer Fair Practices Rules have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

 "These rules are designed to level the playing field for family farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry. These rules give producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices and two proposed rules that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices," Sombke explained. "Across the board these rules are designed to provide fair price protection, but especially for those farmers who raise poultry or swine, which are heavily concentrated."

 He explains that today, 51 percent of all boiler markets and 57 percent of turkey markets are controlled by four processors.

 Sombke's comments echo those of National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.

 "For too long, family livestock producers and poultry growers have endured a heavily concentrated market with little protection against unfair, anti-competitive practices. We are glad that this important set of rules is finally moving forward," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "While the Farmer Fair Practice Rules do not fix all of the fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries, these rules are certainly an important step in the right direction."

 A provision was included in the 2008 Farm Bill, authorizing USDA to improve GIPSA regulations; however, until recently, lawmakers repeatedly blocked the funding needed for USDA to finalize these protection rules for family farmers.

 "Both producers and consumers benefit when the markets are competitive and the practices and process are transparent. We look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the published rules and providing feedback to ensure the final rules will work for family farmers," Johnson said.

 Moving forward, Sombke said the question will be whether the Trump Administration will follow through and support the Farmer Fair Practice Rules.  

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S.D. Farmers Union Members Make A Wish Come True for Lower Brule Boy

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South Dakota Farmers Union members donated $5,000 to Make-A-Wish and helped make Toby’s wish to go to Walt Disney World come true.

Toby is 11 and lives with his family in Lower Brule. Toby faces dilated cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening medical condition. He is among 53 other South Dakota youth who had their wishes granted in 2016 thanks to the generosity of South Dakotans, explains Paul Krueger, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota.

“We really believe that wishes are essential for kids with life-threatening medical conditions. Wishes give hope, strength and joy to those children and their families,” Krueger explains.

Like Farmers Union, Make-A-Wish is a grassroots organization which relies heavily upon a volunteer network of nearly 200 and donations from individuals and organizations to keep granting wishes.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Rocking Z Acres Farm Family

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 By Lura Roti for S.D. Farmers Union

 The phrase, “That will never work,” doesn’t slow BJ McNeil down.

 Not when he converted 4,000 acres of his grandpa’s conventionally tilled land to no-till. Not when he was among the first Wessington farmers to plant Roundup Ready soybeans. Not when he decided to plant cover crops.

 If anything, hearing the expression has only motivated the fourth generation farmer.

 “I am confident in my own decisions and what I want to accomplish ­ it’s just my nature,” BJ, 46, explains.

 His aunt and business partner, Jonnie Zvonek, says it’s in his genes. “You have your grandpa’s attitude.  You just don’t quit.”

 BJ’s grandpa, John Wilmer Zvonek, is the reason both Jonnie and BJ farm today.

 When Jonnie was born, she was the third of four daughters and his namesake.

“I was always with dad ­ I was basically his ‘son’ John,” Jonnie recalls.

 After high school Jonnie tried working off the farm. She moved to Sioux Falls and worked for the Argus Leader as a typesetter for nine months.

 “I felt claustrophobic,” she explains. “I always loved getting my hands in the dirt and watching things grow - so, I asked dad if I could come home and farm full-time.”

 Working side-by-side with her dad, Jonnie was involved in every aspect of the farm: planting, harvesting and bookwork.

 In the summer, her sister Sheryl’s son, BJ, would spend much of his time on the farm.

 BJ says although he didn’t know it at the time, it was those summer vacations spent on the farm that instilled in him a passion for working the land. This passion eventually led him to pursue a degree in Agriculture Engineering from Texas A&M.

 “I first tried aerodynamics because I wanted to be a Navy pilot. Then I transferred to business. I had no passion for any of the classes. So, I asked myself, ‘What do I love?’ The answer was, ‘I loved farming,’” BJ explains.

 Shortly after BJ graduated from college, Wilmer passed away. BJ asked Jonnie if he could come back and farm with her. She said yes.

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