Supporting the future of family farms and ranches through policy development

FF Editor
Farm Forum

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South Dakota Farmers Union

HURON — When times are tough, family farmers and ranchers have a choice, Taylor Sumption explains. “With everyone struggling in agriculture right now, we can complain or change things.”

Creating positive change together motivated South Dakota Farmers Union members from across the state to take time away from their farms, ranches and other professions to gather in Huron Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 for the organization’s 2017 State Convention.

“It’s important that we work together to promote what we do,” adds Sumption, who farms with his dad and brothers near Frederick.

Promoting their family’s business is the reason Dick Kolousek and his son, Scott and daughter-in-law, Amber, became actively involved in Farmers Union a few years ago.

“A while back someone told Scott and me that if we want to make a difference for agriculture, we need to pick an organization and get involved. We chose Farmers Union,” Dick explains. “Because Farmers Union is down to earth and yet it provides a united voice for family farmers. Numbers matter.”

The cooperative spirit of Farmers Union members was felt throughout the convention. “It’s alive and well in this organization,” said Doug Sombke, SDFU president since 2005.

Sombke and the organization’s vice president, Wayne Soren, were both re-elected during convention. National Convention delegates were also elected by members. Delegates to the 2018 National Farmers Union Convention include: Becky Martinmaas, Faulk County; Jeff Kippley, Brown County; Hank Wonnenberg, Gregory County; Bill Chase, Beadle County and Tammy Basel, Meade County and Lorrie Hanson, Marshal County.

As a grassroots organization, policy development is a large focus of convention. Policy developed during convention will be taken to the National Farmers Union Convention held March of 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. Tammy Basil was among a group of dedicated members who spent hours combing through current and proposed policy prior to the open forum where members voted on what policy the state would support.

“Ideas start in the country. Through grassroots policy, we are able to take them to policy makers in DC,” explains Basel, who ranches with her husband, Dallis near Union Center.

Keeping members informed on issues impacting agriculture and rural communities, is also a focus of the two-day convention which was also packed with experts from across the nation who discussed everything from health care and its impact on farm and ranch families, what the current tax bill means for producers, the future of E30 and a new idea that could provide better risk protection to farmers.

“It’s important that we talk about issues that impact farming and ranching. It’s our livelihood,” says Ray Martinmaas, a cattle producer from Orient.

Reliance rancher, David Reis agrees. “I don’t always have the time to stay caught up with what is going on (like the current tax bill or upcoming farm bill). So it’s nice when I can come to convention and get insight into what is going on in DC from Rob Larew.”

Larew is National Farmers Union vice president of government relations. Several members found his presentation enlightening. “I found what he had to say about PAYGO interesting — and how, if the current tax bill passes, it would mean the end for farm programs like PLC and ARC,” says Steve Harwood, a Union Center cattle producer.

PAYGO is a budget rule requiring that new legislation affecting revenues and spending on entitlement programs, taken as a whole, does not increase projected budget deficits. Larew explained to convention attendees that because the current tax bills passed by the House and Senate (as of Dec. 5, 2017) would increase the deficit and would eliminate entitlements like ARC and PLC payments.

“What Rob talked about was scary to hear, but it’s the reason we need to get together and have one message,” Larry Birgen, a Beresford farmer.

Kirk Schaunaman adds, “Farmers Union is a grassroots organization, as members we can work together to make a impact for agriculture in our state and nation.”

Marc Rausch, co-founder and executive vice president of The Auto Channel (far right) was one of four panelists to discuss the value of E30 and its future. Other panelists include, Dale Christensen, board member of Glacial Lakes Engery; Brad Brunner, ethanol marketing manager for Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC; Anne Steckel, biofuels advisor for NFU. South Dakota Farmers Union photo
Affordable healthcare and its impact on family farmers and ranchers was the focus of a presentation given by Alana Knudson, public health program area director at the University of Chicago NORC. South Dakota Farmers Union photo
South Dakota Farmers Union members from across the state gathered in Huron for the organizations’ 102nd State Convention Nov. 30-Dec. 1. During the convention, SDFU president, Doug Sombke, was re-elected, as was vice president, Wayne Soren. South Dakota Farmers Union photo