South Dakotans serve as national delegates

Farm Forum

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Seven South Dakotans made a big impact on National Farmers Union policy during the family farm organization’s 111th anniversary convention held at Springfield, Mass., March 2-5.

Based on membership totals, South Dakota Farmers Union is allowed a total of seven voting delegates to the National Farmers Union convention. Serving as delegates from South Dakota to the national convention were South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke of Groton, SDFU Vice President Wayne Soren of Lake Preston, SDFU board member Terry Sestak of Tabor, and members Lisa Snedeker of Woonsocket, Paul Dennert of Columbia, and Tammy Basel and Steve Harwood, both of Union Center.

“South Dakota had a major impact on the national policy this year,” said Sombke. “We were able to work with other Farmers Union members from across the country to make some important additions to the National Farmers Union’s policy program.”

Delegate Paul Dennert spoke on the floor of the convention about a proposed addition to policy supporting nonpartisan legislative redistricting commissions. Dennert, a former South Dakota legislator who served in both the Senate and House of Representatives for a combined 20 years, said taking politics out of the legislative redistricting process is something every state should work toward.

“By creating nonpartisan redistricting commissions, it will prevent current politicians from drawing the district lines to keep themselves safe for re-election,” Dennert said. “It should be a fair process where politics is taken out.”

National Farmers Union delegates overwhelmingly approved of the redistricting policy addition.

Tammy Basel of Union Center spearheaded an effort to include a policy calling for mandatory, continuous federal funding for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The animal disease facility is currently located on the east coast, just off of Long Island, N.Y. The government has discussed plans to move the work done on animal disease research to Kansas. National Farmers Union opposes the move, but this proposed policy change calls for continuous funding whether the site is moved or not. The policy calls for funding that is not subject to federal budget cuts, because the integrity of the facility is para

-mount to protecting the nation’s livestock herds. National Farmers Union delegates supported the change.

South Dakota delegates voted on several other policy changes and additions throughout the convention, ultimately adopting the most recent policy program. National Farmers Union’s policy is followed throughout the year as the organization’s legislative staff works with lawmakers in Washington on issues important to agriculture and rural America. The 2014 NFU convention will be held next March in Santa Fe, N.M.