Noem talks agriculture during Aberdeen visit

Elisa Sand

Gov. Kristi Noem emphasized the need to support agriculture during a Feb. 15 stop in Aberdeen.

About 125 people were at Agtegra’s Innovation Center to hear Noem visit about her priorities, which include agriculture, support for the struggling nursing home industry and expanding broadband service.

“Because we’re a small state, a lot of people look at us and say there are things we can’t do here,” she said. “I see the opposite. I believe we can lead the nation and set the stage.”

Noem highlighted the recent passage of legislation that will allow the state’s vehicles to run on E-30, fuel that’s a 30 percent blend of ethanol.

Not only does she want the state’s entire fleet to run on E-30, she said, but she wants to challenge other states to do the same.

There’s also been ag-related legislation Noem has opposed.

In recent weeks, she spoke out against a measure that would legalize the growing, production and processing of industrial hemp. It is in response to provisions in the latest Farm Bill that remove industrial hemp from the list of federally regulated controlled substances.

Hemp is a cousin to marijuana, the plant that has higher levels of THC and, in most states, is an illegal drug.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly called THC, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

While the Farm Bill opens the door for growing hemp, regulations are required. Farmers must be licensed, and fields must be tested to ensure hemp doesn’t exceed the minimum threshold of THC.

Following her talk, Noem said she isn’t opposed to the industry and believes it could potentially be beneficial to the state, but she’d like the Legislature to wait a year before adopting regulations.

Growing hemp can be challenging, she said, which is why she encourages farmers to take this time to do their research.

Noem said she wants to wait for federal guidelines that are presently being drafted. And federal agencies are urging states to wait, she said.

There’s also no funding in the state budget to finance the licensing and inspection requirements, and labs don’t have the necessary equipment to test hemp, she said.

During her talk, Noem also highlighted her recent veto of legislation concerning solar energy projects because it gave new power to the state Public Utilities Commission. That board has always had the authority to approve new utility projects, she said, but the bill would have given the PUC the ability to determine where projects go, too.

Asked what the state can do in response to renewed interest in larger livestock operations, Noem said she’s not in favor of mandating where they go, but the state could work with counties to determine the best sites for larger facilities so county officials can point to them when there’s interest.

In other topics, Noem:

  • Stressed the need for access to rural water when it comes to economic development, and said her office wants to know about communities that can’t grow because the water supply isn’t there.
  • Recognized the need for better access to visas for seasonal workers and said she is working with federal agencies to lift restrictions.
  • Discussed efforts to remove regulations that prevent people from working. As an example, she noted age requirements that would prevent 14- or 15-year-olds from working certain jobs.
  • Reviewed her funding proposal that would provide additional resources for community support providers and nursing homes.
  • Outlined her initiatives to increase broadband internet access across the state.
  • Discussed programs that would encourage additional pheasant habitat and distribute live traps to catch predators like foxes, raccoons and skunks, which are a threat to the pheasant population.

Gov. Kristi Noem was in Aberdeen on Feb. 15 visiting with residents and talking about her priorities.