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Meat Labeling, Premium E30, Climate Change - Join the Conversation During 2018 S.D. Farmers Union Convention

November 15, 2018

We may not have much control over the current markets. But, members of South Dakota Farmers Union,  do have a say in policy development that can impact future markets, says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director as she invites members and supporters alike to join the conversation during the 2018 State S.D. Farmers Union Convention held in Pierre Nov. 29-30.

 "We're a grassroots organization, so just like our policy, our convention agenda is also member-driven. We spend a lot of time listening to our members to help determine topics that will be discussed and who will be invited to present," explains Hofhenke.

 Timely topics highlighted during convention include: truth in labeling, climate change's impact on rural America's economy, mental health issues among agriculture producers and the success story of Glacial Lake's Energy Cooperative E30 Challenge program.

 Like so many issues this year, the USDA's discussion on whether or not to label lab-cultured tissue as "meat" directly impacts many South Dakota producers.

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Last Modified: 11/15/2018 7:18:30 am MST


SD Farmers Union Celebrates the Maher Ranch Family of Ziebach County

November 6, 2018

By Lura Roti, for SDFU

 Growing up one of 12 on a ranch north of the South Dakota state line, Mike Maher has many fond memories.

 "We did have a lot of fun. My brother next to me and I would hop on our horses in the morning and lope eight miles to help our cousins work cattle," says the third generation Ziebach County rancher. "We never knew what riding in a saddle was like - dad had the only saddle and we knew better than to touch it. We lived on a river, but none of us knew how to swim because our horses could swim. If we had to cross the river, Dad would always stand on the riverbank to make sure we all got across."

 It could have been memories like these that impacted Mike's decision to follow in his dad's boots after high school - even though there wasn't room for him on his family's ranch.

 He's not sure why he chose to be a rancher. But he does know this, "It's all I've ever done. And, I don't punch a time clock."

 His youngest son, Wade, 35, can relate.

 "I was working as a welder for the mines, managing a bunch of people who did not want to do their job and decided that I needed to get back to the ranch," explains Wade, who packed up his family and returned to ranch with his parents four years ago.

 Wade's parents met at a dance when Mike was working on a ranch near Isabel.

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Last Modified: 11/06/2018 8:37:46 am MST


Clean Octane Alliance Sees Open Road for Higher Blends - Efforts to Derail Regs Rule Successful

November 1, 2018

Lost in the celebration over the Trump Administration's recent announcement to allow year-round E15 sales was a decision by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that could have far greater impact on future ethanol demand, according to members of the Clean Octane Alliance a group recently formed by National Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprise, the Urban Air Initiative and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition to promote mid-level ethanol blends with a particular focus on the fuel economy and GHG rule proposed by the Trump Administration.

 "We certainly appreciate the Trump pledge to address seasonal restrictions on E15 but it is critical to make sure this vapor pressure relief applies to all blends above 10 percent given the limited demand E15 would provide and the fact that blends like E30 will provide substantially greater health benefits at lower costs," said South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke.

 Sombke, along with Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said an update to the master list of future federal regulatory actions called the Unified Agenda does not include a previously proposed rule that would make any blends above E15 illegal to use in conventional vehicles.  Known as the REGS (Renewable Enhancement and Growth) Rule, it would have codified a proposal that would have limited any future blends at a time when future vehicle efficiency requirements will need low carbon, high octane fuels that ethanol can provide in blends of 25-40 percent.  

 National Farmers Union and Urban Air Initiative led the effort to have the Renewable Enhancement and Growth rule dropped or modified and wrote then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt informing him National Farmers Union would challenge this provision in court if necessary. 

 According to Sombke, future demand from E15 will likely be slightly more than 1 billion gallons over current levels in the next five years. He argues that would represent a new corn demand of just 300-400 million bushels that is not nearly enough to turn around the falling farm economy.

 Moreover, said Sombke, the increase from E15 may not even cover the demand loss from the small refiner waivers being granted by EPA that have reduced the Renewable Fuel Standard requirements by more than 1 billion gallons. "I think the agriculture and ethanol industries were so focused on the Renewable Fuels Standard and related issues, that this provision limiting ethanol blends might have slipped by," Sombke said.  "At National Farmers Union we recognize the future is in much higher blends, which is why we were all over EPA to pull back this ill-advised rule."

 According to S.D. Farmers Union analysis, a new octane standard of 98-100, as is being discussed at EPA, could result in increased ethanol demand of 15 billion gallons and corn demand of 4 to 5 billion bushels.

 Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said ethanol blends in the 25-30 percent range can provide a significant octane boost and, more importantly, reduce the toxic carcinogens currently used by refiners to boost octane.

 "We are demonstrating the effectiveness of E30 across the Midwest and the savings to consumers while protecting their health is tremendous. We are showing that conventional automobiles are performing perfectly with this cleaner, homegrown fuel and EPA has no grounds to limit the amount of ethanol we can use," VanderGriend said.

 The Rule was moved from the pending action category to what they call "long term action," indicating it is unlikely to be brought forward. VanderGriend said they intend to monitor the situation but are encouraged that their efforts seem to have produced results.  

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Last Modified: 11/01/2018 7:32:07 am MDT


SD Farmers Union Testifies in D.C. for Truthful Labeling of Meat Today

October 25, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is deciding whether or not lab-cultured tissue should be labeled as meat.

Many do not support labeling foods produced using animal cell culture technology as meat. And, for good reason, said Eric Sumption, a Frederick cattle producer who traveled to D.C. to testify on behalf of his family's cow/calf and feedlot operation.

 "I believe it is wrong to label lab-cultured tissue as meat, because I understand the investment of time and labor that goes into raising cattle. My family and I raise beef cattle from birth through the feedlot. We care for them each and every day until we sell them to be harvested," Sumption explains. "The term meat is our brand, applied to a product that livestock producers, like me, my father, grandfather and great-grandfather worked for generations to perfect."

 Sumption is among four South Dakota Farmers Union members who traveled to D.C. to testify Wednesday, October 24 at the USDA headquarters.

 "All consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing," added Brett Kenzy, a fourth-generation cattle producer who operates a cow/calf herd and feedlot with his brother, George near Gregory. "My biggest fear is the day that lab-cultured tissue is mixed with fat from cattle raised in the traditional manner and the label on the package reads, "hamburger." If we don't maintain truthful labeling, how will consumers know what they are buying?'"

 Kenzy further explained that identifying a product developed in a petri dish or other media with the same label as livestock - cattle, pork, chicken, turkey, fish - raised and harvested in the traditional way, could dissolve trust between consumers and livestock producers. Trust, that has been earned over generations.

 "I am testifying because I question the integrity of our food labeling system based on past performance of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Today, foreign meats are labeled as Products of the U.S.A.," Kenzy said. "To maintain trust, the definition of meat needs to be restricted to animals that are born, raised and harvested in a traditional manner."

 The push to label lab-cultured tissue as meat has big money backing it. The reason? Corporations like Tyson Foods and Cargill have millions invested. To date, Tyson Foods invested more than $57 million and Cargill announced $72 million in funding.

 "By law, agencies like the Federal Drug Administration and Food Safety and Inspection Service have a responsibility to ensure true and accurate labeling of food products," said Rocky Forman, who is testifying because he understands how crucial accurate labeling is to consumers. His 4-year-old daughter, Mayli, was diagnosed Celiac disease.

 "It is my responsibly as her father to protect her. I can only do this if the Federal Drug Administration and Food Safety and Inspection Service do their job," said Forman, S.D. Farmers Union Member Services Coordinator. "Consumers trust that when they buy a product labeled as meat, it has been raised and harvested in the traditional manner - not at a lab in a petri dish or other media."

 Karla Hofhenke agreed. "The truth should be in the labeling," said Hofhenke, who is a fourth-generation South Dakota cattle producer and the Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 Hofhenke traveled to testify on behalf of the more than 17,000 South Dakota farmers, ranchers and their supporters who make up the grassroots organization.

 "The majority of our family farmers and ranchers raise livestock to be harvested for meat. Labeling animal cell culture products as meat would give the new technology an unfair market advantage, by letting them market on the reputation which producers have spent generations to create," Hofhenke said.

 Share your thoughts with the USDA

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration are hosting a joint public meeting/comment period to discuss the potential hazards, oversight considerations and labeling of cell cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry tissue now until November 26, 2018. Readers can leave a comment by visiting this online link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is deciding whether or not lab-cultured tissue should be labeled as meat. Four South Dakotans traveled to D.C. to testify that they do not support labeling lab-cultured tissue as meat Wednesday, October 24 at the USDA headquarters, (left to right): Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director, S.D. Farmers Union; Rocky Forman, Member Services Coordinator for S.D. Farmers Union, Eric Sumption, a Frederick cattle producer and Brett Kenzy, a fourth-generation cattle producer who operates a cow/calf herd and feedlot with his brother, George, near Gregory.

Brett Kenzy, a fourth-generation cattle producer who operates a cow/calf herd and feedlot with his brother, George, near Gregory testified before the USDA today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should not label lab-cultured tissue as meat. 

Frederick cattle producer, Eric Sumption  testified before the USDA on behalf of his family's cow/calf and feedlot operation that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should not label lab-cultured tissue as meat. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat. If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers' reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat - then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

Visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001 and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts.

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Last Modified: 10/25/2018 7:29:00 am MDT


Prime Rib from a Petri Dish???

October 18, 2018

By Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union & fourth-generation Conde cattle producer

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat.

 "Really?" you may ask. "This could mean that I could buy a product labeled as hamburger or steak at the grocery store and it could actually be tissue created in a lab from animal cells?"

 YES!

 If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers' reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat - then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

 Visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001 and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts.

 The comment period is open until November 26, 2018.

 This deadline brings to mind an American holiday with meat at the center of the dinner table - Thanksgiving. Just think, if we don't convince the USDA for fair and honest food labeling, next year's Thanksgiving turkey may have never gobbled. We could be sharing a meal of lab-cultured goo disguised as a turkey drumstick.

 All consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing and eating.

 And, South Dakota's more than 15,000 livestock producers should not have to give up their market-share to a lab-cultured product, that is labeled as meat.

 The definition of "meat" should be restricted to the tissue or flesh of animals that have been raised and harvested in the traditional manner.

 We believe this so strongly that we're going to DC to testify before the USDA. As a grassroots organization that represents 17,000 family farmers and ranchers, many of whom raise livestock, South Dakota Farmers Union sees this as our duty. We'll testify October 24, 2018. To follow our journey, visit our South Dakota Farmers Union Facebook page.

 The truth is in the labeling.

Courtesy of The Atlantic

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently deciding whether or not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat. If this idea grosses you out, or if you believe foods produced using animal cell culture technology derived from cells grown in a petri dish or other media should not be allowed to draw upon U.S. livestock producers' reputations for producing safe, nutritious and high-quality meat - then PLEASE SPEAK UP!

Visit this link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001 and let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hear your thoughts

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Last Modified: 10/18/2018 7:22:09 am MDT


Growing Season 2018: What South Dakota Farmers Have to Say

October 16, 2018

by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Listening to farmers and ranchers from across South Dakota report on growing season 2018 begins to sound like the children's story, Goldilocks & The Three Bears - Too wet. Too dry. Just right.

 However, due to input costs, rental rates and low crop and cattle markets, regardless of how Mother Nature treated farmers and ranchers, this harvest, no one gets a happily ever after.

 "This growing season has a lot of different twists to it," explains Tabor crop and cattle producer Terry Sestak. "Policy has not been good, as far as helping the ag sector markets."

 And at 62, the District 1 Farmers Union board member says although he's farmed nearly all his life, he's never seen a growing season quite this wet. "It's been wet all growing season with really no dry spells to speak of in our area."

 Referencing southeast South Dakota, where days of rain delayed planting repeatedly, some fields never were planted and some that Sestak and his neighbors were able to plant ended up getting drowned out. As of Oct. 9, the rain has yet to quit.

 "I am looking out the window at a field that was preventive planting, that I was going to plant winter wheat into. So, I had it sprayed to kill weeds. Then, a 6-and-a-quarter-inch rain the week of Sept. 17 interrupted my plans," he says.

 But, Sestak says he remains optimistic that 2019 will be a better year. "Farmers are eternal optimists. It's good to keep a sense of humor and realize things could be much worse. I'm healthy. I have my family. And, we didn't receive the type of flooding they got on the coasts. That type of flooding not only destroys crops, but homes and kills livestock."

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Last Modified: 10/16/2018 7:29:41 am MDT


SDFU Applauds Decision to Provide Regulatory Relief to Higher Ethanol Blends: Officials call it an important first step

October 15, 2018

South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) called October 9, announcement by the Trump Administration to open the market to higher volumes of high octane, low carbon and low-cost ethanol an important a win for farmers, consumers and the environment.

 The decision to apply existing standards to these higher blends that lower vapor pressure is long overdue, said SDFU President Doug Sombke. "Higher ethanol blends reduce the very evaporative emissions this antiquated restriction was designed to control," he said. "Adding clean burning ethanol to gasoline replaces the toxic, cancer causing components used to increase octane. It reduces carbon emissions, particulates, and a range of harmful pollutants."

 While applauding the Administration's decision, Sombke cautioned that if the EPA attempted to limit the new rule to only blends of 15% it would be a major misstep and cause for serious concern to American agriculture.   

 SDFU is a supporter of the High Octane Low Carbon Alliance along with major ethanol and agriculture organizations and have argued for higher octane levels to help meet the pending fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas rule.

 Ethanol at volumes in the 25-30% range can provide low cost octane allowing automakers to design more efficient vehicles. "15% volume is a great start but certainly should not be a cap or any kind of limit at a time when automakers are acknowledging higher volumes can provide significant increases in octane that they can design to," said Sombke. 

 "The increased demand for South Dakota's agriculture products is critical at a time of low prices and fluctuating demand and higher ethanol blends could be the demand driver needed. In addition, the dramatic price differential between gasoline and ethanol provides substantial savings to all consumers. If nothing else this is a pocketbook issue and keeps money at home at a time of increasing world oil prices," he said.

 SDFU officials said they will continue to work with EPA and other interested parties as they finalize the rule lifting the restrictions.

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Last Modified: 10/15/2018 7:43:08 am MDT


South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Richter Ranch Family

October 3, 2018

By Lura Roti for SD Farmers Union

Neal Richter began helping his dad move cattle on the family's ranch near Enning when he was about 8.

"That was a bad idea because I was hooked," jokes Neal, 36, a fourth-generation cattle rancher.

"He always wanted to be on the ranch," explains his dad, Dick, 72.

In fact, so strong was Neal's desire to make ranching his life's career, that as a high school student, he took on extra classes so he could graduate a semester early to be home fulltime for calving.

"That first calving season, it happened to be a nice January and February, with 40 to 50 degree days. Calving was easy, I thought, 'this is great. The next calving season wasn't so warm, but I'm still here,'" says Neal, who graduated from Sturgis High School in 2000.

Although his formal education ended that year, Neal's intake of knowledge and information in regards to improving his and Dick's cattle herd genetics and management is a daily practice.

He reads agriculture publications, takes in seminars and workshops and works closely with local SDSU Extension staff. In 2010, he participated in SDSU Extension's first beefSD class. An intensive three-year program led by livestock experts and innovative South Dakota cattle producers, who provide cattle producers with research-based information on everything from improving genetics and cattle health to feed rations and grazing practices. Through beefSD, Neal was able to collect data on five of his calves - from weaning through the feedlot and on to processing.

"Ranching is just like other careers, there is always more information available to improve things, so I have to work to keep on top of it," he explains. "beefSD opened my eyes to how what is happening here on the ranch will impact what happens down the chain."

Among the management practices which have improved things is hay testing and supplementation. This was one of the topics covered during beefSD that made sense to Dick and Neal. So, today, the men have their hay tested to ensure they are feeding their cows a balanced ration. "We feed supplements as needed based on test results," Dick says.

The men market their calves at weaning, so birth weight and vigor are a large focus of their breeding program.

"We used to wean, feed and then sell," Dick explains. "In this country, we don't raise our own corn. Most of what we grow is to replenish hayground. So, when the calf prices started coming up, and we could make more money selling them right off the cow, without feeding them, that's what we decided to do."

And, according to the feeder/finisher who has been buying the Richter calves several Octobers in a row, they gain and finish well.

"The guy who bought them said 75 percent of them graded choice," Neal says. Although the same buyer bids on their cattle each year, when it comes to marketing their calves, the men are loyal to Ft. Pierre Livestock Auction Inc. "Marketing is a terrible big part of ranching. Even before Neal started ranching with me, I took the calves to Ft. Pierre and I thought they did a good job by me," Dick says.

Neal adds, "They have gotten to know us over the years. They know our brands and they will call us when someone is looking for the type of cattle we raise."

To read more click here

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Last Modified: 10/03/2018 10:31:38 am MDT


SD Farmers Union President Responds to United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

October 3, 2018

HURON, S.D. - When the news of the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico reached Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union, he was both relieved and saddened.

 "I am happy it is wrapped up, but disappointed there is nothing in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for family farmers and ranchers. We were expecting, after the President's campaign promise that he would reinstate Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), that this would be done during the renegotiation of NAFTA, and I was surprised it was not even addressed," said Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle producer.

 "It didn't change any benefits we already had in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), nor did it add anything. The fact is, wheat farmers in North Dakota and Montana are still only able to market feed-grade wheat to Canada. This trade agreement does not allow farmers to market food-grade, higher value, wheat."

 And, at a time when South Dakota's family farmers are really hurting, Sombke says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement does not offer any relief to the low commodity prices, gravely impacted by the current trade war with China.

Doug Sombke is the President of South Dakota Farmers Union and a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

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Last Modified: 10/03/2018 8:01:23 am MDT


Share Your Story Today!

September 26, 2018

Opinion Piece by Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union 

During the recent National Farmers Union Fly-In, South Dakota Farmers Union members met with South Dakota congressional aides from who were surprised by the stories we shared, saying that when they visited with South Dakota agricultural producers this summer, they did not hear of the challenges facing farmers due to tariffs on top of already low farm gate prices and rising energy, shipping and input cost. 

 PLEASE share your story with them. Let them know how the tariffs and low commodity prices are impacting YOU.

 Every day, as President of South Dakota Farmers Union, I talk to farmers, bankers and Main Street business owners who are struggling due to the current situation. Some farmers say this will be their last harvest.

 Encourage your banker, neighbors and friends to share their story with our congressional leaders as well.

 Here's how to reach them:

Senator John Thune Phone: (202) 224-2321

Email: https://www.thune.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

Senator Mike Rounds Phone: (202) 224-5842

Email: https://www.rounds.senate.gov/contact/email-mike

Representative Kristi Noem

Phone: (202) 225-2801 Email: https://noem.house.gov/index.cfm/email-kristi   Thank you, Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union & fourth-generation Conde farmer

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Last Modified: 09/26/2018 7:14:10 am MDT


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