South Dakota family farmers and ranchers visit with USDA officials in Washington
HURON, S.D. — More than 30 South Dakota farmers and ranchers met with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials in D.C. on Sept. 9 as part of the 2019 National Farmers Union Annual Fly-In.
“Due to the trade war and weather challenges, many of our state’s family farmers and ranchers will not see a profit this harvest. We are here to share our story with D.C. policy makers. Hopefully they understand the decisions they make, impact real people and families,” explains Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union president and fourth-generation Conde farmer.
In his role as president of one of South Dakota’s largest farm and ranch organizations, Sombke has made the trek to D.C. several times. Based on the feedback he receives from Congressional leaders and their staff, the time these family farmers and ranchers have set aside to meet with leaders from across the U.S. pays off.
“Grassroots advocacy gets noticed. In some cases, our fly-in visit is the first time some staff, from more urban areas of the country have had an opportunity to visit with farmers and ranchers,” Sombke explains. “National Farmers Union has lobbyists, who carry our message to policy makers. However, meeting with the people behind that message leaves a strong impact.”
Providing a voice for South Dakota family farmers and ranchers is the reason farmers, Shane and Julie Fastnacht traveled from Wessington Springs to participate in the Fly-In.
“We are here to speak up for ourselves and other South Dakota ag producers. With the state of the agriculture economy, we’ve been facing market issues for several consecutive years now. This will be the fourth or fifth year, producers like us, are working hard to hit breakeven,” explains Shane, a third-generation cow/calf producer. “I plan to visit with policy makers about expanding ethanol consumption and country of origin labeling.”
The Fastnachts are among more than 30 South Dakota farmers, ranchers and supporters of agriculture who traveled to D.C. The other Fly-In participants include Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President, Lake Preston; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Larry Birgen, Sioux Falls; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Doug and Julie Bruckner, Wessington Springs; Brian and Lindsey Cain, Miller; Gail Temple, Clark; Lisa Snedeker, Woonsocket; Caroline Blatchford, State FFA Reporter, Brookings; Sarah Kroeger, State FFA Vice President, Lennox; Jason Wells, SDFU Insurance Manager, Huron; Rocky and Mandi Forman, Huron; Dallas and Tammy Basel, Union Center; Mark and Schmidt, Gary; Richard and Beverely Rubel, Dallas; Ryan Leischner, Mitchell; Mitch Richter, , Rapid City; Cody Wilson, , Parkston; George and Michelle Kenzy and children, Tyler, Nicholas and Brooklynn, Gregory; Cameron and Jessica Lux, Aberdeen; Darwin and Latham, Camp Crook; along with Matt and Stephanie Cavenee, Miller.
In addition to meeting with USDA officials, during the three-day Fly-In, participants will meet with Congressional leaders from across the nation and their staff. Family farmers and ranchers will share their personal stories on how the current challenges are impacting them, their neighbors and their South Dakota communities. They will campaign for policies that strengthen the farm safety net, reduce chronic overproduction, help farmers and ranchers implement climate smart practices, restore competition to the agricultural economy, resolve ongoing trade disputes, and expand the market for homegrown biofuels.
To learn more about the 2019 Fly-In, visit www.sdfu.org or follow South Dakota Farmers Union on Facebook.