South Dakotans Meet with U.S. Sec. of Agriculture During National Farmers Union Convention
Acknowledging the challenges facing American agriculture, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says he remains bullish for the future of agriculture when he addressed Farmers Union members during the organization’s National Convention held in Savannah March 1-3.
“People need you. People need us. People need American agriculture,” Perdue said.
Among the many family farmers and ranchers in the audience were several from South Dakota who took time away from their operations to help establish policy that will address some of the many challenges facing their industry today.
“Farmers Union is the only grassroots agriculture organization where I feel anyone involved can make a difference. Even an Average Joe farmer like me,” explains Rachel Kippley, who farms near Aberdeen, S.D. with her husband, Jeff.
The Kippleys are among seven South Dakota Farmers Union members who were elected to serve as delegates during Convention: Terry Sestak, Tabor; Gerri Eide, Gettysburg; Scott Kolousek, Wessington Springs; Brian Cain, Miller and Amber Kolousek, Wessington Springs.
“Through policy and education, we are able to keep our organization focused,” Jeff Kippley added. “The great thing about Farmers Union is we have representation from all kinds of farming. But at the heart and soul of Farmers Union are the commodity farmers and ranchers – like those of us from South Dakota.”
Serving on the S.D. Farmers Union Policy Committee for two years, Wessington Springs cattle producer, Scott Kolousek agreed. “I am eager to see how the policy developed at the state level becomes part of national policy.”
Concerned over fair prices for cattle producers and an advocate for country of origin labeling (COOL), Kolousek took the opportunity to present a letter to Secretary Perdue to hand over to President Trump asking for three changes he believes would be positive steps forward for cattle producers, including mandatory Country-of-Origin-Labeling (mCOOL); break up the meat packer consolidation and require any trader on the Chicago Board of Trade or Chicago Mercantile Exchange to physically own for 30 days the commodity in which they trade.
“The last four years have progressively gotten tougher, economically, for us. Corporate consolidation in livestock and agronomy businesses needs to be stopped and reversed,” Kolousek’s letter reads. “Remember the people in middle of America who helped put you in office. We need your help.”
South Dakotans recognized for Membership & Leadership
During National Farmers Union Convention, several South Dakota counties were recognized for their continued leadership and growth in Farmers Union membership including Aurora, Bon Homme, Brule, Corson/Perkins, Hand, Jerauld/Buffalo, Lyman, Minnehaha, Sanborn, Spink, Tripp and Yankton. Jeff Kippley was also recognized for leadership and membership work in S.D. Farmers Union with the Bruce Miller Award.
“Because of leaders like Jeff and Rachel Kippley, membership has grown this last year in our state,” said Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “I am very impressed with the group of delegates we have this year. They are a good representation of our state’s family farmers and ranchers. And their leadership is going to be needed in developing our organization’s national policy, making sure the family farmer and rancher is not forgotten.”
SDFU President and Conde farmer, Doug Sombke added, “The reason Farmers Union can make a difference for family farmers and ranchers throughout the U.S. is this organization is truly grassroots. Our policy is developed by farmers and ranchers who have skin in the game and know what changes need to be made so their operations can be viable into the future.”
South Dakota Farmers Union members who attended National Convention include:Doug Sombke, Conde; Jim and Kathy Wahle, Salem; Jeff and Rachel Kippley, Aberdeen; Gerri Eide, Gettysburg; Wayne and Vicki Soren, Lake Preston; Larry Birgen, Sioux Falls; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Dallis and Tammy Basel, Union Center; Rachel Haigh-Blume, Redfield; Landon Copley, Aberdeen; Brian and Lindsey Cain, Miller; Rocky Forman, Huron; Karla Hofhenke, Huron; Scott and Amber Kolousek, Wessington Springs; Kathryn Nightingale, White Lake; Luke Reindl, Wessington Springs; David and Brenda Reis, Oacoma; Terry Sestak, Tabor; Gail Temple, Clark and Jason Wells, Huron.
To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union visit www.sdfu.org. To keep up with members during convention, check out South Dakota Farmers Union on Facebook.