Brown County farmer reflects on Year of Service

Lura Roti
South Dakota Farmers Union

A year ago, Aberdeen farmer Jeff Kippley made history when he was elected to serve as Vice President of National Farmers Union.

It was the first time in more than 100 years that a South Dakotan was elected to this national position.

“I ran to advocate for and serve family farmers and ranchers because I needed to do something to help my kids’ future and the future of other farm and ranch kids,” explained Kippley, who raises crops and cattle with his wife, Rachel and their four children.

The couple also co-own and operate a tax business with Jeff’s sister, Michelle Olson.

His urgency to do something comes from the behind-the-scenes knowledge Kippley has through the tax work he does for area farmers and ranchers. He knows the financial challenges his family’s farm faces are not unique. Through his work as NFU Vice President, he has met with family farmers and ranchers from several states and said even though their operations may look different from those in South Dakota, their challenges are not.

“One thing that really surprised me this year, is how much we all have in common. We all need access to fair markets. We all need access to capital. We all need labor,” Kippley said. “It does not matter the size of the operation or what you are growing, these are the big issues we all face and we are all fighting for.”

He says he also has more optimism for the future of family farms and ranches based on the policy-driven momentum he has seen in D.C.

“Guided by grassroots policy, National Farmers Union has been working to shine a spotlight on the need for oversight of packing plants, and now we see reintroduction of the Price Transparency Bill and the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act as well as introduction of MCOOL (Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling),” Kippley said. “In the short term, all this attention on the Big Four has them playing fair in the market – for the moment.”

Throughout his year of service, Kippley is away from his farm and family about one week each month. He is on the phone with farmers or in remote meetings several hours each day. He says he is able to juggle farm work and tax work and family activities because of Rachel.

“My wife is amazing,” he said. “We just make it work. I feel like that is the South Dakota way. Just keep piling on more responsibilities and figure out how to get it done.”

Reflecting on his year of service, Kippley said he wants members to know their voice is heard. And the policy they put in place is being advocated for on their behalf in D.C. by individuals who care.

“Even though I served on the National Farmers Union board in an advisory role before being elected, it has been eye-opening to see the day-to-day activities NFU staff does on behalf of family farmers and ranchers each day in D.C.,” Kippley said. “I know the grassroots policy we develop is in good hands, because I have gotten to see the deep concern NFU employee team has for keeping family farmers on their farms. It is really the number one goal of our legislative team – to make sure there are laws in place to keep family farmers farming.”

Kippley looks forward to meeting with members and discussing policy during the National Farmers Union Convention held in San Francisco March 5-7, 2023.