Ag group's delegates carry grassroots policy to national stage at convention

South Dakota Farmers Union
Farm Forum

Policy which leads South Dakota’s largest agriculture organization begins with the family farmers and ranchers who make up South Dakota Farmers Union. On March 1-2, these farmer/rancher delegates will advocate to make South Dakota’s policy part of National Farmers Union policy.

“Our members create the policy which guides our organization here in South Dakota and in D.C.,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU president and fourth-generation Conde farmer, in a news release. “This is how grassroots policy works. Members create it. Members vote on it. Members, leadership and staff advocate on its behalf.”

During the 2020 SDFU State Convention, members voted on the farmers and ranchers who will serve as delegates: Bill Chase, Wolsey; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Rob Lee, De Smet; Jeff Kippley, Aberdeen; Jenae Hansen, Redfield; Gerri Eide, Gettysburg; and Rachel Kippley, Aberdeen.

“The policy comes from grassroots — farmers and ranchers,” explains Chase. “(The) national convention is our opportunity as farmers of all different types of agriculture, to get together and understand one another’s problems and figure out how we will work together to help solve these problems.”

2021 will be the second time Chase, 62, has served as a delegate to the National Farmers Union Convention. And although due to the pandemic he will be advocating through a virtual platform instead of in person, he is eager and excited to participate.

“I think we have an opportunity with the new administration in D.C. to do some good things for agriculture,” Chase says. “This is our opportunity as farmers to give direction to what we want to see done in D.C. for policy that impacts us.”

This is Lee’s first time serving as a delegate, but it will be his second national convention. “Last year I was a spectator. It was interesting to see how in some cases South Dakota’s delegate positions tracked well with delegates from other states and in other cases the views were opposing,” explains the 34-year-old De Smet farmer in the release. “A certain amount of debate is healthy, as we work to try and capture policy that is best for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers, and what is best for farmers in other states as well.”

Lee says he is eager to be an active participant in the process this year. The virtual nature of the national convention means that any member of South Dakota Farmers Union can view delegate discussions as well as other national convention speakers.

“The opportunity for more members to see how the policy they developed and voted on during our state convention makes it into the national policy is a silver lining to a virtual convention,” says Sombke, who also serves as the national treasurer.

To learn more about the National Farmers Union Convention and to register, visit nfu.org.

Wolsey farmer Bill Chase is one of the family farmers elected by SDFU members to serve as a National Convention delegate.
SDFU President Doug Sombke during 2020 NFU Convention held in Savannah, Ga.
De Smet farmer Rob Lee — pictured here with his wife, Darcy, during the 2020 NFU Convention — is among several family farmers elected by members to serve as a delegate to the NFU Convention.