South Dakota Farmers Union
HURON — 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.
The diverse business portfolio Farmers Union Enterprises oversees includes; grain-free pet food, wheat-based cat litter, grease and animal rendering plants.
Like the organizations it supports, Farmers Union Industries also focuses on funding policy and advocacy. In 2014, Sombke was among the Farmers Union Enterprise board members who traveled to the Vatican, to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the important role family farmers’ play in food security as well as the fact that most food produced in the U.S. is produced by family farmers.
“It is my goal to not only help family farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and the United States, but to work with families who produce food around the world,” Sombke said. “People cannot afford food if we put wheels under it all the time. We need to grow it closer to home. Now, that’s not to say export markets aren’t necessary, but in order to create a globally sustainable food supply, more food needs to be produced locally.”
A fourth-generation Conde farmer, today Sombke’s three sons have all returned to the family’s farm where they raise crops and operate other value-added enterprises.
Sombke’s clear understanding of the life and challenges family farmers live and face daily will serve him well in this leadership role, said David Velde, president/CEO of Farmers Union Enterprises.
“You can talk about understanding agriculture, but until you have planted corn, fed cattle and gone through up and down market cycles, you cannot appreciate how stressful and important each decision made is to a family’s farming operation,” Velde said. “Doug understands agriculture because he is a farmer. He lives it.”
As president of S.D. Farmers Union, Sombke has served on the Farmers Union Enterprise board since 2005. He is filling the seat of Doug Peterson, the recently retired Minnesota Farmers Union president. The board is made up of presidents from each of the five-state Farmers Union organizations.
“I have big shoes to fill, but I’ve been well prepared,” Sombke said. “Serving as president of South Dakota Farmers Union and chairman of the board for Famers Union Enterprises work well together – in both roles, my focus is on serving family farmers and ranchers.”