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

April 5, 2017

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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Last Modified: 04/05/2017 11:35:50 am MDT

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

April 3, 2017

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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Last Modified: 04/03/2017 12:18:50 pm MDT

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

April 3, 2017

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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Last Modified: 04/03/2017 11:59:10 am MDT

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

March 23, 2017

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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Last Modified: 03/23/2017 7:15:57 am MDT

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

March 13, 2017

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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Last Modified: 03/15/2017 2:06:07 pm MDT

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

March 1, 2017

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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Last Modified: 03/01/2017 9:48:46 am MST

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

February 28, 2017

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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Last Modified: 02/28/2017 10:17:29 am MST

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

February 13, 2017

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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Last Modified: 02/13/2017 9:32:37 am MST

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

February 13, 2017

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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Last Modified: 02/13/2017 8:36:12 am MST

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

February 9, 2017

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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Last Modified: 02/09/2017 7:57:02 am MST