Lawmakers connect with producers at Farmers Union event

Farm Forum

BERESFORD – A group of South Dakota lawmakers connected with farmers and ranchers to gain a greater understanding of the agriculture industry during an event at Beresford sponsored by South Dakota Farmers Union.

What had originally been scheduled as a “Planting with Producers” event, where lawmakers would have had a chance to ride in a tractor with a producer, was changed because of the rain. Lawmakers gathered at Southeast Farmers Cooperative in Beresford to have lunch and meet with South Dakota’s Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch before heading to a tour of a nearby feedlot. Lawmakers toured the Christiansen Farms feedlot just southwest of Beresford.

“We never complain about rain, especially with the drought that much of South Dakota has been under for some time now,” said South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Director Mike Traxinger. “But we changed our plans a little bit and were able to still have a great conversation about the agriculture industry and its impact on the state’s economy.”

Lentsch, who has been on the job for about a month, told the group that he and a lot of South Dakotans are grateful for the moisture.

“No matter where you’re at in the state, if you think this is a little gloomy weather, there have been a lot of prayers answered these last few days, all across the state,” he said.

A total of nine legislators attended the event. Rep. Jim Bolin, R-District 16, Rep. Paula Hawks, D-District 9, Rep. David Anderson, R-District 16, Rep. Karen Soli, D-District 15, Rep. Christine Erickson, R-District 11, Sen. Deb Soholt, R-District 14, Sen. Larry Lucas, D-District 26, Sen. Tom Jones, D-District 17, and Sen. Dan Lederman, R-District 16.

Lentsch encouraged legislators to ask questions and to be an active participant in moving the agricultural industry forward in South Dakota.

“With the Legislature, there are 105 people from across the state to come together, and they’re the people’s voice at the Capitol, and they help chart the course,” Lentsch said. “Without you (the legislators), we try and do some good things on the policy side for ag in the state, and we need your help to get it done.”

Lentsch explained the enormous changes in the way farmers are getting their work done now. It was an effort to educate lawmakers about what the state’s largest industry is doing now and could be doing into the future.

“We used to plant by the acre, now we plant by the inch,” Lentsch said of how farming has changed because of research and precision agriculture practices. “Everything is absolutely precise, they’re maximizing every inch of that field, and that’s what the future of agriculture can look like.”

Each year in the Legislature, dozens of bills are introduced dealing with the agriculture industry. Traxinger said an event like this is aimed at connecting producers who are living off the land every day with lawmakers who make the decisions that affect their operations.

“We had a great time of conversation and learning,” Traxinger said. “It’s important for lawmakers to come out and experience what it’s like on the farm and see the operation first hand. We were able to make that happen today and hope that the lawmakers came away with a better understanding of the industry.”