State will save at least $450,000 with Dept. Agriculture and Natural Resources merger

Rebekah Tuchscherer
rtuchscherer@gannett.com

Five full-time positions are being eliminated at the state level, due to the merger of two major South Dakota departments.

Those eliminations include four vacant positions and one cabinet secretary post. Cost savings are estimated at $450,000, according to public affairs director Brian Walsh.

In early August, Gov. Kristi Noem announced that the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would be merging into the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR), citing overlap between the two departments and needs for streamlining.

“We’re going to consolidate programs,” Noem said during a conference call with farmers Wednesday. “We’re also going to create a much better customer service experience and save taxpayer money.”

Both farmers and environmentalist groups have cited concerns about potential conflicting interests between the two departments in the merger, according to a September 2020 Argus Leader article.

In addition to the cabinet secretary position, jobs that will not be filled include an administrative assistant, a groundwater quality engineer, a SDDA special projects position and DENR environmental scientist manager position, according to DENR Secretary Hunter Roberts.

Gov. Kristi Noem speaks about a new scholarship program Wednesday afternoon at Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls Argus Leader photo by Erin Bormett