Gov. Kristi Noem combines state agriculture, natural resources departments

Lisa Kaczke
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Hunter Roberts

Gov. Kristi Noem announced that she's merging the state agriculture and environment and natural resource departments. 

The new combined agency will be called the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, according to Noem's announcement on Thursday. 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Hunter Roberts will lead the new department. The Department of Agriculture has been without a secretary since Kim Vanneman announced her resignation in May and Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden has been serving as interim secretary of the department. Roberts will serve as interim secretary of agriculture while leading the Department of Environment and Natural Resources beginning Sept. 8 until the merger is completed, according to the announcement.

Noem said she has appreciated Rhoden's hard work and leadership since stepping up to lead the Department of Agriculture. 

“Agriculture is our number one industry, and under Secretary Roberts’ leadership, this department will serve our producers better than ever before," Noem said.

Roberts is an owner and operator of the Roberts Ranch in Stanley and Lyman counties. He has worked in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development as state energy director and as a policy advisor for former Gov. Dennis Daugaard working on agricultural policy. He has led the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as secretary since August 2019.

Roberts’ grandfather Clint Roberts served as South Dakota's agriculture secretary and his mother Pam Roberts served as South Dakota's labor secretary.

“I’ve worked in agriculture my entire life, and I am excited to lead this department,” Hunter Roberts said in a statement. “South Dakotans know that farmers and ranchers are the best conservationists, and this department will promote our number one industry while we simultaneously protect our natural resources.”