Gov. Noem signs order to create Dept. of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Rebekah Tuchscherer
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Governor Kristi Noem gives the State of the State address on Tuesday, January 12, in the House of Representatives at the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre.

An executive order signed Tuesday by Gov. Kristi Noem officially merged the South Dakota’s Department of Agriculture (SDDA) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Coined as the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR), the new department will be headed by Hunter Roberts, the current DENR secretary.

Noem first announced the merger in early August, and has since been met with skepticism from both agriculture and environmental groups, as the Argus Leader reported in September. Since then, the South Dakota Farm Bureau has endorsed the merger, while the South Dakota Farmers Union, the state's largest agricultural organization, have formally opposed it, citing a need for the state's No. 1 industry to have a department of its own.

“We are fostering sustainable agriculture and conservation that we can pass on to our kids and grandkids,” Noem said in a news release Tuesday. “This merger will simplify life for South Dakota’s agriculture producers by creating a one-stop shop in state government.”

While the budget for the new department will not be implemented until July, two major changes at the state-level have already taken place. Five positions, including that of a cabinet secretary, have been cut from the state budget. Additionally, the creation of a Livestock Services Program is underway and will manage concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) permitting, inspections, manure management planning and licensing for dairy and egg facilities.

Noem's executive order will go into effect in 90 days.