Farmers Union election results will not change

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Farm Forum

Ongoing discussion about South Dakota Farmers Union’s December leadership vote isn’t going to change the results.

Doug Sombke, of Brown County, was re-elected president of the group. He said the executive board has reviewed the vote and stands by the results. A new vote will not be scheduled, he said.

Sombke and his challenger, Garrett Bischoff, of Beadle County, recently met, according to a news release from Farmers Union. It says that Bischoff has conceded the election and is ready to move forward.

However, a news release from Bischoff counters that claim.

Bischoff said in the response release that he has not conceded, but that he doesn’t have an attorney and isn’t contesting the results.

South Dakota Farmers Union chapters across the state continue to meet to discuss resolutions calling for a new vote and for the ag group’s leaders to step down.

Next up is the District IV meeting May 18 in Winner. District President Joel Keierleber said members will be discussing the resolutions, but the state group’s executive board has made its decision.

“What these resolutions pertain to we couldn’t do legally anyway,” he said.

Concerns have been raised by Sombke’s opponents about how the election was handled and whether delegates who voted were qualified to represent their counties.

Kecia Beranek, South Dakota Farmers Union communications specialist, said there are other districts she hasn’t heard from concerning the resolution votes.

Three districts have yet to vote.

Mike O’Connor, a former Farmers Union vice president, has been a voice for the Save the Farmers Union Coalition, a group that’s been critical of the current leadership. O’Connor said he’s aware the resolutions are nonbinding.

“But we sent a clear message to Sombke and (secretary/treasurer Karla) Hofhenke that people are not satisfied with the process,” O’Connor said.

Bischoff, in his release, said he’s not the leader of the coalition, but that the group’s concerns are valid and need attention.

According to the Farmers Union release, Sombke and Bischoff met to bridge the gap in membership.

“Now that the disagreement over, the election is behind us, we can put our focus and efforts on assisting the farmers and ranchers who founded this organization more than a century ago,” Sombke said in that release.

O’Connor said the next step would be to take the election challenge to court, but the coalition doesn’t have money to do that.

Farm Form Editor Stan Wise contributed to this story. Follow @ElisaSand_aan on Twitter.