S.D. program aims to ease development projects

Farm Forum

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – A new South Dakota program aims to gauge the interest of farmers in potential development projects, before businesses even start scouting an area.

If county officials agree, state representatives will meet with agricultural landowners confidentially to determine whether they would be interested in selling to a developer.

The program boosts local control, state Agricultural Development Director Paul Kostboth told the Argus Leader newspaper.

“We recognize not all projects fit in all areas, and it’s not our place to decide what is welcome and where,” he said. “With ag being the state’s No. 1 industry . it makes sense for us to try to figure out where good opportunities are welcome, and if a company or landowner says they’re interested, we feel our job is to help connect them with the right folks that fit their vision.”

Lincoln County was the first in the state to go through the rural development site analysis. The state identified two sites there that met the minimum standards for a potential animal feedlot and 177 sites that met the standards for analysis as ag-related industrial development sites.

“They come in, look over your ordinances, your setbacks, all your zoning qualifications, and present you with a blueprint of what areas the animal or dairy or agribusiness could start,” County Commissioner Jim Schmidt said.

He credits the process with creating favorable public opinion when a new dairy recently sought county approval to build near Centerville.

“We had a site available, and it met all his criteria,” Schmidt said. “No one was opposed to this. They had concerns but all were addressed. The ag department really took a lead role in talking to the neighbors and making all the preparations before any application was made.”

The Agriculture Department has since analyzed several other counties and plans to have 15 done by July.