Tonsager recognized at National Farmers Union Convention

Farm Forum

Santa Fe, N.M. — National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson convened the 112th general session of the National Farmers Union Convention on March 9 in Santa Fe, N.M. Johnson subsequently presented a National Farmers Union award for meritorious service to Dallas Tonsager, a native South Dakotan.

“Dallas Tonsager has 35 years of agricultural, business, cooperative and financial experience through his work as a farmer, businessman and community, state and national leader,” said Johnson. “He served two terms as South Dakota Farmers Union president, held several leadership positions in the industry, and retired after holding the position of U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development. Tonsager committed his tenure as under secretary to making the Rural Energy Assistance Program (REAP) a nationwide program instead of being concentrated in the Midwest.”

Tonsager served as South Dakota Farmers Union president from 1988-1993. He was then appointed by President Bill Clinton to head the South Dakota USDA Rural Development department as its state director. He served in that capacity until 2001. He was the executive director of the South Dakota Value-Added Agriculture Development Center from 2002-2004 and was on the board of directors for the Farm Credit Administration from 2004-2009. In 2009 he was appointed by President Barack Obama to head the USDA Rural Development department as under secretary and served until 2013.

“Dallas Tonsager has dedicated his life to public service and improving rural America,” said SDFU President Doug Sombke. “Words cannot express how outstanding of an agricultural leader Tonsager has been to South Dakota and rural America. He is well deserving of this award.”

Tonsager grew up on a dairy farm near Oldham and has been involved in the diversified farm operations since 1976. He graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in agriculture in 1976. Dallas and his wife, Sharon, have two sons.

Meritorious Service Awards honor those who have made particularly noteworthy contributions to agriculture, humanity and Farmers Union. This is the highest award the NFU Board of Directors can bestow upon any individual.