Senate raises fees on farm fertilizers to pay for research

Farm Forum

PIERRE — South Dakota’s inspection fees on fertilizers should be raised, the state Senate decided Tuesday.

The additional revenue would be used to fund fertilizer research at the South Dakota Agriculture Experiment Station at South Dakota State University.

There are national watershed concerns about nitrogen and phosphorus levels. State officials want to establish agricultural recommendations specific to South Dakota’s conditions.

The SDSU findings could be used in negotiations with federal regulators and for helping agriculture producers in their operations.

Farm lobbyists estimate the additional fee revenue would be about $300,000 annually. The various fees range from 5 cents to 25 cents per ton. The legislation would add 15 cents to each of those fees.

The governor opposed the legislation, SB 115. Senators voted 30-5 in favor. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

The legislation also forms a state council on nutrient research and education.

Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot said the real need is to update fertilizer recommendations for farmers.

“We don’t want salesmen or salespeople out there with their own recommendations trying to one-up the university,” Frerichs said.

Also speaking in favor was Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center.

“And I don’t raise fees lightly. I think it’s necessary. I think we need to stand our ground,” Rhoden said.

State Attorney General Marty Jackley is disputing the federal regulations, said Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner.

“We’re wanting to promote this research because we want to establish as our own in South Dakota, based on SDSU research, numeric values in our watersheds,” Krebs said.

Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, said the research will help farmers know how to apply the right amounts. “The producers have also gone on board in favor of this fee assessment,” he said.

Knowing how much to apply also saves producers money, Tidemann said.

Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, was one of several senators who voted no. The others were Republicans Ried Holien of Watertown, Ryan Maher of Isabel, Deb Peters of Hartford and Tim Rave of Baltic.

Brown questioned whether a federal challenge would be productive.