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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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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Three Generations of Farm Moms This Mother's Day

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As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother's Day, S.D. Farmers Union would like to celebrate the many women who support the state's number one industry - Farm and Ranch Moms!

 Read on to learn the story of three mothers.

 Each of these Farmers Union members represent a different generation of women born and raised on South Dakota farms and ranches, who married a farmer or rancher.

 These women share their story and reflect on raising children on their South Dakota farm or ranch.

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S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke Agreed to Exclusive TV Interview with KELO TV

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Today, during the 6 o'clock news, Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President was interviewed by KELO TV following the 7 to 46 vote by Dist. 7 members which shut down a resolution asking for his resignation.

 Sombke stands by the election results decided by the members during the Centennial Convention held Dec. 9-10, 2015 in Huron.

 "I am proud of the work that I've done with Farmers Union. I am proud of where we have come since I have been the president of this organization and we will continue to do better," said Sombke, a fourth generation Conde farmer.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance Welcomes New Regional Manager

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South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance welcomes Jason Wells to serve as the new Regional Manager.

 "Jason brings extensive leadership and career experience to this role," said Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. "We are confident he will administer exceptional guidance and support to our team of South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance agents who help provide risk protection to many families throughout South Dakota.

 Growing up in rural North Dakota, Wells began his career with Farmers Union Insurance of North Dakota right out of college. "My entire career has been 100 percent Farmers Union Insurance. Over the years, I have worked in every aspect of insurance," said Wells, who started out in operations and eventually became vice president of underwriting and marketing for Farmers Union Insurance of Montana.

 Wells is excited for the opportunity to lead South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance and cannot wait to get started.  He is also happy to bring his wife, Becci, and son, Carter, back to the Midwest and closer to family.

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Farmers Union Quiz Bowl Encourages Youth to Think about Farm & Ranch Safety

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Four FFA Chapters placed in the Farmers Union Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl held in conjunction with the 2016 South Dakota State FFA Convention in Brookings and will be advancing to the state competition held during the 2016 South Dakota State Fair.

The qualifying teams are, in order of highest score: the Viborg/Hurley FFA Chapter, team members include; Logan Slack, Alison Knutson, Abby Hora and Annie Wirth: the McCook Central FFA Chapter, team members include; Melissa Lauck, Leslie Kolbeck, Kohl Miller, and Jordan Scheier: Sunshine Bible FFA Chapter, team members include; Christopher Hass, Evan Lopez, Shelby Belmore and Titus Deal: and the Lyman FFA Chapter, team members include Korder Cropsey, Conrad MohrEymer, Eli Fanning and Grant Stewart.

 Designed as a fun way to inform teens about farm safety, South Dakota Farmers Union hosts the Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl each year during the FFA Convention.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Board of Directors Dispels Myths With Letter

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HURON, S.D. - For more than a century, South Dakota Farmers Union has supported the state's family farmers and ranchers. The organization's board of directors continues to support it's more than 17,000 members in standing by the election results tallied during the Dec. 2015 Annual Convention and validated by an outside lawyer.

 "The board has considered these resolutions and they are committed to the greater membership of South Dakota Farmers Union," said Joel Keierleber, Dist 4 Board member, in response to a request made by 25-30 members of it's Dist. 1 and Dist. 2 to hold a second convention.

 In response to allegations of mistreating staff, SDFU cannot discuss personnel issues.

 "However, the board of directors can tell you that no current or former employee has ever made a claim to the board that they were mistreated," said Kecia Beranek, Communication Specialist for SDFU. "The board is always willing to hear from every single employee."

Below is the letter, signed by the board of directors, and released to membership April 1, 2016 to let members statewide know there will not be a second convention and the election results stand.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Wonnenberg Family Ranch

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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're highlighting the Wonnenberg family who ranch near Dallas.

 As its mother protectively stands guard, her newborn calf, supported precariously by its wobbly legs, looks curiously at its surroundings and then begins nursing. For four generations, this heart-warming scene has signaled spring on the Wonnenberg Ranch near Dallas.

 And, even though it's been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, Steve, 61, still enjoys calving season.

 "From the time I was really small I enjoyed working with cattle and doing chores," explains Steve, who raises a registered Black Angus herd, which his dad, William, began in the 60s.

 "For their FFA project, my older brothers decided to get into raising registered Black Angus," Steve explains. "My dad liked them so much that he kept expanding the herd after my brothers left the ranch."

 Like his father before him, the third-generation rancher still does business with a handshake. "Our family still has the old mentality where a shake of the hand still means a lot," explains Steve and Joan's daughter, Casey Wonnenberg King. "When my dad sells registered Angus bulls, he always tells buyers that if something doesn't work out, he will make it right - and he always holds true to his promise."

To read the rest of their story, click here.

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Meet South Dakota Farm & Ranch Families During National Ag Week

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During National Ag Week, South Dakota Farmers Union and its 17,000-plus members want to introduce South Dakotans to a few of the many farm and ranch families who make up the state's number one industry by inviting the public to read their stories which can be found on the organization's website, www.sdfu.org.

 Since 2014, the organization has highlighted a different farm or ranch family each month - capturing their stories and photographing the family's agriculture operations.

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USDA Secretary Discusses Diversification, Conservation and Trade at NFU Convention

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South Dakota Farmers Union members were in attendance as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, spoke at the National Farmers Union Convention held March 5-8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn.

 "What an amazing opportunity for those of us who work in production agriculture and live in rural communities throughout South Dakota that are supported by agriculture to hear firsthand Vilsack's message," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

 Vilsack, who is also a Farmers Union member, celebrated U.S. agriculture's uniqueness and called on Congress to act on food labeling, and advocated for increased trade with Cuba.

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National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives Introduces Students to Purpose & Diversity of Co-ops

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When Lake Area Technical Institute Agriculture Business student, Alexa Olson, thinks about cooperatives, she immediately pictures the grain elevator in her hometown.

 Until recently.

 Today, the image in her mind is much more diverse. Olson just returned from the National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives held Feb.19-21, 2016, in Minneapolis.

 "During the conference we visited a grocery store that was a cooperative. I was impressed by the fact that cooperatives are much more than grain and agriculture focused," she said.

 Her classmate, Jeffrey York, agrees.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Wienk Charolais 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’re highlighting the Wienk and Eschenbaum farm family who operate Wienk Charolais near Lake Preston.

Thumbing through a recent Wienk Charolais sale catalogue, Arnold Wienk, 78, recalls what it was like in the early years, “When I first sold bulls, the only number we gave buyers was the birthdate.” The glossy flyer is filled with photos of breeding stock and several columns of numbers representing EPD data - genetic information which today’s cattle producers count on to make breeding decisions. EPD data is standard issue with the sale of all purebred cattle thanks to the efforts of breeders like Arnold and Carol Wienk who, a generation ago, understood the value of genetic data.

 The Wienks are among the breed association pioneers who encouraged purebred breeders across the country to collect and catalogue genetic data because they understood the role it would play in improving commercial cattle herd genetics - and ultimately enable the cattle industry to quickly respond to consumer demands.

 “We do what we can to promote the industry and the product,” says Arnold, a third generation Kingsbury County farmer. “This herd has more records on file with the association than any herd in the U.S. - or is one of the herds with the most records - because we were keeping records with the S.D. Beef Improvement Association before the Charolais Association kept members’ performance records.” The Wienks transferred their performance records to the Charolais Association once the association began processing and maintaining members’ performance records.

 To read the rest of their story, click here.

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South Dakota Farmers, Ranchers & Rural Youth Visit Legislators Today for South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day

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When you're 15 politics can be confusing. South Dakota's Legislature is now more understandable for the South Dakota teens who attended the South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day today. They joined family farmers, ranchers and rural business owners who also participated in the annual event.

 "It's cool to see the process first hand and really understand what happens behind the scenes," says Hannah Sumption, 15 and a student at Frederick Area High School. "I have heard about it on the news, but until I got to sit in on committee meetings and Session today, I didn't really understand how everything worked."

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Sturgis Rancher attends National Farmers Union 2016 Women's Conference

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Initials and brands cover the inside wall of a barn on the Sturgis ranch Mary Ellen Cammack operates with her husband, Randy.

 "It started back when my dad was doing daily chores. If you helped him milk and feed bucket calves, he would carve your name or initials into the barn wall," she explains.

The family continues the tradition of raising quality Hereford cattle on the ranch. When family and friends visit, they ask to contribute to the wall - it's become a tradition of sorts. After attending the National Farmers Union Women's Conference recently, Cammack says the barn will be getting some new text - her family ranch's mission statement.

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Jr. REAL: South Dakota Farmers Union Continues to Cultivate Leaders in South Dakota's Youth

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Six Wolsey/Wesssington High School students learned how to protect their credit score and earned a cash prize from South Dakota Farmers Union as winners of the Making $ense of Credit and Finance PSA Competition.

 The winning team includes the following students: Devon Metter, Jamie Cutshaw, Zach Reilly, Matt Larsen, Justin Clark and Judd King.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Birgen 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; Photos by Kathy Birgen

 Like most South Dakota farm families 50 years ago, the Birgen’s farm resembled that of the Old McDonald nursery rhyme.

 “We raised cattle, chickens, sheep, had milk cows and stock cows ­ but back then, everyone did. You sold cream and eggs,” recalls Matt Birgen, an 86-year-old Korean War Veteran, who together with his wife, Maureen, farmed and raised their seven children on the land he bought near Beresford with combat pay in 1955.

To learn more about the Birgen family, and view a photo gallery, click here.

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