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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Vedvei Farm Family

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Emerging from the show ring with a big smile, first time 4-Her, Hadlee Holt, 9, was greeted by her parents, Corrie “Vedvei” and DJ Holt, with a big hug and sighs of relief.

 It was nerve-racking to watch, but seeing that smile was priceless,” explains Corrie of watching her daughter show for the first time.

 A third-generation 4-H alumnus, Corrie says it’s exciting to see her daughter continue the family legacy of 4-H involvement and showing registered Charolais cattle.

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke Wishes Noem Remained on the House Agriculture Committee

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I was quite surprised when I read quotes made by Representative Kristi Noem in a recent Watertown Public Opinion article where she attempts to justify her move from the House Agriculture Committee to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. She stated, "all of the ag organizations in the state advocated and supported me getting on the Ways and Means Committee."

 I am confused by this comment, because although I knew Noem was making the move, and I understand that for her political career this is a great move for her, as a representative of one of the state's largest agriculture organizations, I did not and do not support her move because it is not in the best interest of South Dakota's number one industry of agriculture.

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S.D. Farmers Union is Disappointed in Lack of Support for Hurting Dairy Farmers

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke is disappointed in the 2016 Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) and its inability to provide a safety net for dairy producers in a current commodity crisis.

 "Congress needs to act quickly to fix what is wrong with the Margin Protection Program for Dairy - similar to how they reacted to the cotton industry crisis earlier this spring," said Doug Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer. "After talking with South Dakota dairy farmers, many will not even receive $200 from this disaster payment."

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Farmers Union 2016-2017 Junior Advisory Council Members Selected to Serve

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The 2016-2017 Junior Advisory Council members include: AJ Schoenfelder, Parkston; Abbey Tschetter, Huron; Cole Van Gorp, Stickney; Jonah Murtha, Parkston; Shaun Snedeker, Woonsocket; and Madelyn Kline, Huron.

 During the 2016 State Leadership Camp, a six-member Junior Advisory Council was selected by the Youth and Education Council to serve as leaders, role models and representatives in planning and conducting the 2017 State Leadership Camp.

 The 2016-2017 Junior Advisory Council (JAC) who were announced during State Camp include: Cole Van Gorp, Corsica; Shaun Snedeker, Stickney; AJ Schoenfelder, Parkston; Madelyn Kline, Huron; Jonah Murtha, Parkston; and Abbey Tschetter, Huron.

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30-For-30 Celebrates Home-Grown, Renewable Fuel in Pierre

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South Dakota Farmers will be hosting a 30-For-30 event at Cowboy Country Store in Pierre (1619 N. Harrison Ave) August 3, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to celebrate the benefits of fueling up with Premium E30.

 During the 30-For-30 event, drivers receive .30 cents for every gallon of Premium E30 purchased.

Fueling up with 30 percent blend of ethanol not only saves folks money, but it supports South Dakota's family farmers who market their corn to the state's many ethanol plants," explained Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 Sombke adds, "Premium E30 gives drivers of all makes and models a higher octane, renewable fuel resulting in increased fuel economy without the dangers of Benzene, a carcinogenic used to increase octane levels."

 Since the beginning, South Dakota Farmers Union has been a strong advocate for the ethanol industry. "We're a grassroots organization who is focused on supporting family farmers and ranchers," explains Kecia Beranek, SDFU Communications Specialist.

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Farmers Union State Leadership Camp Promotes Friends, Self Confidence, Leadership & Cooperative Education

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South Dakota Farmers Union State Leadership Camp is a summer tradition for Jonah Murtha, 17. 

 Since he was 12, the Parkston High School senior has made the trek west to Storm Mountain Center just outside Rapid City to spend a week engaged in hands-on cooperative education, personal leadership development and reconnecting with friends he has made from across South Dakota.

 "The people I have met here have become life-long friends," explains Murtha, who gained leadership experience serving as president of the camp's coffee cooperative. "Leadership camp has also given me a better understanding of cooperatives. I think they are very interesting because they help solve problems and provide necessities to rural communities."

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Painter Ranch Family

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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Painter Ranch Family

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Running cattle on Harding County grasslands has been a part of the Painter Family legacy since 1895 when great-grandpa, Lewis Levi Painter, rode the open range as a horse wrangler for the CY Cattle Company of Texas.

“He ran a few cows with the main herd and squatted on this land until about

1910 when he filed homesteading paperwork,” explained Lewis’ great-grandson, Joe Painter, 56.

Like the four generations of Painters before him, Joe continues to run cattle and ride the range along with his wife, Cindy, and their two daughters, Jessica and Joey, and their families. Their son, PJ, 29, works as an attorney in Louisville, Ky.

“Having our kids return to the ranch is the best thing in the world,” says the Harding County rancher. “Otherwise, all those years of working extra hard to buy land and cattle would be for nothing. When you have the kids return home, you have someone to pass it on to and that makes everything worth it.” “It’s what we worked for all our lives,” Cindy adds.

When Joe mentions hard work, he’s not stretching the truth. It was 1983 when he and Cindy returned to ranch fulltime after college. “Interest was 18 to 24 percent. Money was impossible to come by. We didn’t spend a nickel unless it was absolutely necessary,” Joe says. “A neighbor’s ranch came up for sale, $30 an acre, but we had no money to buy it. That’s how tight it was in the 80s.” Cindy shared another example of a time that the bank loaned them money to purchase sheep but then wouldn’t loan them money to buy feed.

To read more click here 

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

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Applications for the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate School Scholarship are now available at www.sdfufoundation.org.

 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.

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30-For-30 Celebrates Home-Grown, Renewable Fuel

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South Dakota Farmers will be hosting a 30-For-30 event at the Shell Station in Mitchell (2160 Highland Way) July 14, 2016 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  to celebrate the benefits of fueling up with Premium E30.

During the 30-For-30 event, drivers receive .30 cents for every gallon of Premium E30 purchased.

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Second Tuesdays Tune In To South Dakota Farmers Union Radio Show

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Since 1915, South Dakota Farmers Union provides a voice to the states family farmers and ranchers. The century-old, grassroots organization continues its legacy with a radio show hosted on second Tuesdays during KELO Radio's It's YOUR AgriBusiness Hour (10-11 a.m. CST).

 "We're excited about this opportunity to connect with our consumers," said Doug Sombke SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde farmer. "Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from. As the numbers of family farmers and ranchers in our state continues to decline, the need to share our story increases."

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

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Applications for the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate School Scholarship are now available at www.sdfufoundation.org.

 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.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Links Farm & Ranch Families to Farm Safety Videos this Summer

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South Dakota Farmers Union, in conjunction with National Farmers Union is working to raise awareness about farm and ranch safety issues and best practices through a series of 10 educational videos.

 "Farming and ranching is a family business - which means parents and their children are often working together during the summer months. It's great way to promote a healthy work ethic, but we cannot forget that this work can also be dangerous - no matter how old you are," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and fourth-generation Conde farmer.

 Sombke currently farms with his sons. He encourages farm and ranch families to take time to watch these videos to increase safety awareness. "We live and work on our farms and ranches, so it's good to have a reminder of the dangers so we can keep ourselves and the ones we love safe," Sombke said.

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Reminder South Dakota Farmers Union Golf Tournament is June 21 in Mitchell

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Farmers Union will host the 2016 Farmers Union Foundation Open Golf Tournament June 21, 2016, at the Lakeview Golf Course in Mitchell (3300 N Ohlman St., Mitchell). 

 The tournament will be a four-person, 18-hole scramble. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. (CDT); shotgun start is at 9 a.m.

 All event proceeds benefit Farmers Union Education Camp Programs, Leadership Development Programs, Young Producers Group and Youth Farm Safety Awareness.

 To register a team and or to become a hole sponsor, contact Kecia Beranek, SDFU Communications Specialist at the South Dakota Farmers Union office at 605-352-6761, ext. 113 or kberanek@sdfu.org

Learn more about the Farmers Union Foundation Open Golf Tournament click here. 


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South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Symens 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.

 By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

 This month, we're highlighting the Symens family who raise crops, purebred Limousin cattle and a feedlot near Amherst.

 "It's a garden spot ... if we get rain," says Paul Symens, 72, when describing the land his grandpa, Harm Symens, purchased in 1910 near Amherst.

 For more than a century, the Symens family has cared for and farmed the land, which today supports a diverse farming operation that includes cropground, purebred Limousin cattle and a feedlot managed by Paul, his two brothers, Irwin, 80, and John, 69, Irwin's son, Brad, 46, and Paul's son, Warren, 38.

 Since the beginning, rain - the lack of or over-abundance of - has played a significant role in the management decisions made by the Symens family.

 For Harm and his son, Wilbert, the Dust Bowl days made soil conservation and erosion control a focus of their field management.

 Irwin recalls a 1936 story of his dad planting corn in May which didn't sprout until September when it received its FIRST rain ... only to be killed by frost at 6-inches. "That same year dad mowed 160 acres of ground and all that grew was thistles. He stacked the thistles, mixed them with molasses and that's what he fed the cattle. That was the year I was born," says Irwin, who is the second oldest of nine children raised on the farm by Wilbert and his wife, Inga.

 Implementing novel conservation techniques, like tree belts and strip tilling, earned the family some fame when in 1936 Harm was featured in Cappers Farmer magazine under the headline, "Uncommon Effort Won Over Drought."

 Today, the Symens continue the legacy of conservation, managing their fields with minimal-till techniques to increase water infiltration and leaving half of all corn stubble in the field to build organic matter. The stubble removed from fields is used as bedding for cattle. It is then reapplied once it's been utilized as bedding. "At this point it's partially decomposed and has added nutrients of the manure," Warren explains.

 To read more click here.

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On a Mission for Cooperation: It's Camp Season 2016

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Growing up on a farm south of Gregory, Dowain Kerner didn't give his dad, Dean's, career much thought. That is, until he began attending Farmers Union Camp as a kid.

 "I was born on a farm; it's what my dad does for a living. But when I was little, I wasn't into farming at all. Attending camp really gave me an interest in farming," says Kerner, 18, who has been attending Farmers Union Camp since he was 8.

 Positive peer pressure is how Kerner explains his change of heart. "I really connected with the kids and leaders at Farmers Union Camp. They were excited about farming, ranching and cooperatives - this sparked an interest in me."

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NFU Statement on Proposed RFS Volume Targets

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, does not support the May 18, 2016 announcement made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which proposes a 5 billion gallon cut to its 2014 Renewable Fuels Standard renewable volume obligations.

 "By setting the 2017 renewable volume obligation at 18.8 billion gallons, the EPA falls below the statutory volume levels set by Congress," Sombke explained. "There is a strong connection between reliable implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard and achievement of the Administration's climate goals."

 A fourth-generation family farmer, Sombke understands the positive impact renewable fuels has had on South Dakota's economy. "The ethanol industry has created jobs throughout our state's rural communities and provides another, local market for corn," Sombke said. "Not only that, but ethanol blends provide cleaner air than just gasoline alone."

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S.D. Farmers Union Supports Sen. Grassley's Reintroduction of Legislation Banning Packer Ownership of Livestock

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South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke joins with National Farmers Union (NFU) organization in commending U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for reintroducing legislation to ban packer ownership of livestock.

 "Sen. Grassley has always been recognized by Farmers Union for his continued support of family farmers and ranchers," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and livestock farmer. "This is an issue which directly impacts South Dakota farmers and ranchers who raise livestock."

 Sombke explains that because there are so few packers today, packer ownership of livestock can manipulate the livestock markets, reducing demand and driving prices down. He adds that this is not a new issue. In fact, packer ownership of livestock is the issue which motivated Sombke to become more involved in the grassroots organization 30-plus years ago.

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Fun and Raising Funds

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Fun and raising funds for the next generation of agricultural leaders is the focus of the 2016 Farmers Union Foundation Open Golf Tournament which will be held June 21, 2016, at the Lakeview Golf Course in Mitchell (3300 N Ohlman St., Mitchell).

  The tournament will be a four-person, 18-hole scramble. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. (CDT); shotgun start is at 9 a.m.

 All event proceeds benefit Farmers Union Education Camp Programs, Leadership Development Programs, Young Producers Group and Youth Farm Safety Awareness.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Welcomes New Education Director

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South Dakota Farmers Union recently hired Rachel Haigh-Blume to serve as Education Director.

 "We are excited about Rachel's background and professional experience, as well as her enthusiasm for youth and agriculture," said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 Haigh-Blume will be responsible for educational programming, which serves more than 3,000 South Dakotans each year.

 Since it was established to serve family farmers and ranchers more than a century ago, education has been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union. "SDFU Educational programming is developed to enrich the lives of rural South Dakotans; whether it's through county, district or state camps held throughout the summer which teach rural youth about farm safety, cooperative education and leadership development or Rural Economic & Leadership Program (REAL) and Young Producer Events which provide leadership and professional development to agriculture producers and rural professionals," explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of SDFU.

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SDFU Foundation Now Taking Nominations for 2016 Rural Dakota Pride Awards

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Since 1938, the community of Groton has hosted the Carnival of Silver Skates. The on-ice themed musical performance featuring school-age children from the community is the longest running outdoor skating show in South Dakota. 

 For several years now, Steve and Carol Smith have been actively involved on the event's planning committee and a few years back, when the city's skating rink was moved from the center of town to the edge of town, they worked with other community members to organize fundraising events which raised more than $60,000 in one year for a new warming house.

 "This event is very important to our community," Carol explains. "We knew if the show was going to continue, we needed a new warming house."

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