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South Dakota


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Legislative Day

Rocky Forman Profile

State Advisory Meeting

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2018 National Convention

Farmers Union Celebrates the Feickert Farm Family

More than 40 South Dakota family farmers and ranchers traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to develop policy advocating for agriculture during the organization’s 116th national convention March 4-6.

“As a grassroots organization, Farmers Union truly gives family farmers and ranchers a voice.” – Doug Sombke, President South Dakota Farmers Union.

National Convention Continued on Page 6

Keep Our Kids Safe!

To schedule the Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer for 4-H club meetings or school events, contact Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator, at 605-350-3421 or

South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s No. 1 industry and help feed the world. This month we feature the Feickert family. Dennis Feickert is pictured here. See page 2 for family photo.


he second oldest of seven, Dennis Feickert grew up on a traditional 1950s South Dakota farm. His dad, Elvin, and mom, Christina, raised pigs, chickens, a cow/calf herd, a 30-cow dairy herd and corn, oats, wheat and hay. It was on this 1,200-acre McPherson County farm that a strong desire to work on the land and care for livestock was instilled in Dennis. “My passion and my love has always, absolutely been with the cattle and the land and the machinery. That is where my entire energies have always been focused,” he says. Although the only career Dennis ever wanted was to be a farmer, when he graduated from high school, the family farm was too small. His dad was young yet and had a large family to support. “So, I moved to Aberdeen and began working for Dakota Farmer magazine and hated it – absolutely despised it,” Dennis says. To emphasize how farmsick he was, Dennis tells this story. “It was summer. I would lay in our small apartment with the windows open to catch a breeze and I would smell alfalfa and I would go wacko,

Feickert Family Continued on Page 2

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absolutely wacko.” Because he couldn’t change circumstances and he had a young family to support, instead of farming fulltime, at 21, Dennis joined the Aberdeen City Fire Department and built up a cow/calf herd as time, income and opportunity allowed. “I bought about 20 heifers at the sale barn and kept them at the kids’ grandpa’s farm. Then, we bought some 4-H heifers for the kids to show in 4-H and I rented some land and took a guy’s cows on shares and kept a few of those heifer calves,” explains Dennis, of the slow-but-sure way he built up the cow/calf herd to today’s 180-head that he runs together with his son, Jason and daughter, Rebecca’s cows. To have enough pasture and hay ground, Dennis rented or purchased small pieces of land close to Aberdeen. Then, in the mid‘70s, 40 acres of land just five miles from Aberdeen came up for sale. Dennis sold a duplex he had renovated and built a house and barn. He finally had his farm. “To be a farmer was just part of my calling. I never considered it wouldn’t work out. More than anything, when I finally got this place, I felt blessed,” he says of the home farmstead he shares with his wife, Rae. All the while Dennis was building up his farm, he worked fulltime as a firefighter. “I couldn’t have done it without Rebecca and

Rebecca Rink says growing up on her family’s cow/calf operation prepared her well for her career as a large and small animal veterinarian.



Feickert family: (left to right) Richard, Scott, Lauren, Rebecca, Olivia and Regan Rink, Dennis and Rae Feickert, Megan and Christopher Theiling and Jason, Kristen, Sophia and Ezra Feickert.

Jason,” he says. He explains that although the 24-hour shifts were long, they allowed for him to have large chunks of time off to accomplish farm work. However, when it came to daily feeding chores and calving season, he relied heavily on his children. “I remember checking cows in the middle of the night when Dad was at the fire station and, if there were any problems, I’d call dad and he’d come home,” says his daughter, Rebecca Rink. Rink says the independence and problem solving she gained working with livestock serves her well as a large and small animal veterinarian. She says growing up with livestock in a rural state gave her an edge when she applied for vet school at University of California, Davis. “There were somewhere between 500 and 600 applicants for 120 positions and I pulled an interview. I was different from the other kids they interviewed because I was a South Dakota kid who understood food animals,” Rink says. Today, Rink works for Midwest Ag Supply serving agriculture producers and companion animal clients throughout northcentral and northeast South Dakota. Rink and her husband, Scott, have four children; Lauren, 18; Richard, 16, Olivia, 13; and Regan, 10.

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“I always liked working outside with dad and the livestock. I remember being around 5 and dad was castrating calves and I was helping, picking up the nuts and putting them in a bucket,” says Rink. Dennis says Jason was the same way. “His mom would drop him off at the babysitter around 8:15 and I’d get a phone call to pick him up a few minutes later because he wanted to be outside with me,” Dennis says. Today, Jason, works full-time managing the family’s cattle and forage acres. Like his dad, he got his start working full-time off the farm. Jason spent the first 20 years after college working for beverage distributors in


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Aberdeen and farming on the side. “I always wanted to farm full-time. I enjoy trying to improve the product and the new life, making the next generation of calves better and seeing the new life,” explains Jason. Jason makes most of the breeding decisions for the family’s herd. He manages an essentially closed herd and improves herd’s genetics by retaining heifers and buying bulls with a balance of maternal and carcass characteristics. Jason and his wife, Kristen, have two children, Ezra, 10, and Sophia, 10.

McPherson County Highway Superintendent for nearly a decade. “My dad had a passion for roads. That was his Sunday afternoon pastime. We didn’t fish or hunt, we drove roads and pastures,” Dennis says. This odd pastime makes sense when Dennis explains that as a kid, there wasn’t a road leading to their farm. “We had to go out across the prairie. So, my dad was involved in getting roads throughout rural McPherson County. During his years as commissioner, they moved a lot of dirt,” Dennis explains. Accountability, not roads, is what motivated Dennis to run for Brown County Commission. It all began when he kept Jason home from school one day to attend a Brown County Commission meeting where the discussion was focused on a new building to be built on the fairgrounds. “There were all these old, gray-haired guys sitting in the Commission Chambers and they were intimidating. When we left, Jason began asking me questions and I could tell that he recognized the intimidation level and it bothered the ever-living dickens out of me,” says Dennis. “The County Commission Chamber does not belong to the County Commissioners, it’s the people’s chambers. The money we spend belongs to the taxpayers.” Within the week, he stopped by the county auditor’s office to pick up the paperwork to petition to run for county commission. “The lady who handed me the paperwork began to cry because she didn’t think anyone young ever ran for office. I was 38 at the time,” Dennis, 69, explains. It was 1986. Dennis ended up serving

Like their mom, the Rink kids love animals. Pictured here: Olivia and Richard Rink.

on the county commission for 20 years. In 2001, he was elected to serve as President of the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners. Dennis also spent eight years serving in the South Dakota Legislature. “I loved it, absolutely loved serving,” Dennis says. As a farmer-legislator, he saw a need to share his first-hand experiences with legislators who did not have on-farm or ranch experience. “There were maybe 10 of us, out of 105, who have actually sold a bushel of corn or pulled a calf,” Dennis says. “The ag industry needs a voice in Pierre – just like local government needs a voice in Pierre.” ■ by Lura Roti for SDFU

Like their dad and Aunt Rebecca, Jason’s daughter, Sophia, and son, Ezra, enjoy showing cattle in 4-H.

It’s the taxpayers money The farm Dennis grew up on was just a little over a mile away from where his grandpa homesteaded in 1892. His grandpa’s family were German farmers, who emigrated to South Dakota. Along with farming, Dennis says his dad also passed on a desire to serve the community. His dad was a McPherson County Commissioner for 16 years and worked as


“I enjoy trying to improve the product and the new life, making the next generation of calves better.” – Jason Feickert

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Public Speaking & Policy Go Hand-in-Hand During National Convention FUE Session


s farmers, tax preparers and parents to four young children, Jeff and Rachel Kippley are practiced in multitasking. Their balancing skills came in handy during the 2018 National Farmers Union Convention as Jeff served as a delegate and the couple attended the third session of the Farmers Union Enterprise (FUE) Couples Leadership Program. This is the couple’s first time attending the national convention. They said it is democracy in action. “The policy sessions are similar to our state convention’s policy. As a group we go page-by-page through the policy book and any delegate can get up and speak,” Rachel explains.

“If we are going to have a powerful voice, we need to understand what other farmers and ranchers are doing.” – Rachel Kippley

As members of the FUE organization, the Kippleys also took part in breakout sessions designed specifically for the FUE class. This session focused on public speaking. A focus that Jeff says was quite timely for his role as a South Dakota delegate. “The confidence I’ve gained through FUE helped. I feel like I know more about Farmers Union and its history so I am not afraid to stand up and speak,” he explains.



Throughout the three days in Kansas City, Rachel says they had several opportunities to visit with family farmers and ranchers from other states and better understand their operations. “If we are going to have a powerful voice, we need to understand what other farmers and ranchers are doing,” Rachel explains. “Our overall mission is the same, but if they don’t know where I am coming from, or I don’t know where they are coming from, we cannot represent each other.”

Jeff and Rachel Kippley

He adds that understanding Farmers Union’s history is a valuable take-away from the FUE program. “Like the old saying goes, if you don’t know history you are destined to repeat it. It’s beneficial to understand mistakes made in the past so we don’t make them as we move forward,” Jeff says. And, like all South Dakota members attending the national convention, the Kippleys also participated in most general convention activities – speakers, panel discussions and policy development.

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More about Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program Developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union, the Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program provides training and hands-on experiences which enable couples to become knowledgeable leaders. Throughout the 2017-2018 year, the Kippleys will attend five seminars. They will join with farm or ranch couples from North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. To learn more about the Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program and apply to represent South Dakota in 2019, contact Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, ■


hlights ig H n o ti n e v n o C l a Nation


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Union Farmer National Convention Continued from Page 1

S.D. Farmers & Ranchers Develop Policy for the Future


ore than 40 members of South Dakota Farmers Union were among more than 450 family farmers and ranchers from across the country who traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend the National Farmers Union (NFU) 116th Anniversary Convention March 4-6. “As a family farmer-driven organization, NFU’s convention is the organization’s most important event of the year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate what makes Farmers Union truly unique – and that is family farmers of all types, sizes, ethnicities, regions and religions banding together to make sure they all can enjoy the American dream,” says NFU President Roger Johnson. South Dakota members who attended include: Doug Sombke, SDFU President, Conde; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist, Huron; Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director, Huron; Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President, Lake Preston; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Larry Birgen, Sioux Falls; Matt and Maureen Birgen,

Beresford; Hannah Sumption, Aberdeen; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Jennifer Hanson, Britton; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Joseph Nugteren, Canistota; Bill and Kathy Chase, Wolsey; Hank and Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Becky Martinmaas, Orient; Gail Temple, Clark; Mark and Lisa Snedecker, Woonsocket; Lynn Frey, Lemmon; Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator, Huron; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; Dallis and Tammy Basel, Union Center; and Lorrie Hanson, Britton. During the convention members engaged with industry experts, policymakers, thought leaders and fellow farmers on topics of vital importance to family farm agriculture. Top of mind for most attendees and speakers are the severely depressed farm economy, negotiations on the upcoming Farm Bill, extreme consolidation in the agricultural sector and the success of the next generation of family farmers. ■

South Dakota Agriculture During our 2017 state convention, members elected the delegates pictured here with SDFU leadership. Row 1: (left to right): Doug Sombke, SDFU President, Tammy Basel, Meade County; Bill Chase, Beadle County; and Hank Wonnenberg, Gregory County. Row 2: (left to right) Bob Whitmyre, 2018 National Policy Committee; Lynn Frey, District 6 Board Member; and Jeff Kippley, Brown County. Row 3: Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President; Becky Martinmaas, Faulk County; and Lorrie Hanson, Marshall County. “South Dakota’s delegates bring their own strengths to convention – whether it is their type of operation, experience with other organizations of off-the-farm jobs. I’m proud of the team of delegates selected to represent South Dakota,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President.

Policy Development S.D. Farmers Union, together with Montana, introduced a Special Order of Business on the policy floor that would mean lab cultured protein products could not be labeled as beef or meat. Union Center sheep and cattle rancher Tammy Basel spent hours preparing for the moment she could bring this order to the policy floor for a vote. “This is a priority issue with the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service. It is important that Farmers Union joins with several other agriculture organizations so processors cannot label anything but beef as beef – not plant protein, not insect protein, not something grown in a lab,” explains Basel of the special order which passed unanimously. A self-proclaimed “policy geek,” Basel says she puts hours of preparation into policy before convention. “I feel it’s an honor to be elected to represent our state as a delegate so I do my diligence so I am ready.”



Two other special orders introduced by South Dakota Farmers Union delegates and passed by the NFU delegation include the E-30 Challenge and Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). E-30 Challenge addressed not only the consumers’ ability to save money, but focused on the health benefits of E-30 which does not contain cancer causing benzyne – a chemical used in other premium fuels. Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET) was developed by SDFU member Craig Blindert. IMSET focuses on farmer-led solution to poor markets. IMSET incentivizes soil health building. NFU will endorse SDFU efforts to bring IMSET forward as a product for RMA to release to farmers to use along side crop insurance.

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Union Farmer South Dakota Recognized

Five South Dakota counties received national recognition for outstanding leadership in their state. Right to left, NFU President Roger Johnson; Dallis Basel, Larry Birgen, Lorrie Hanson, Rocky Forman, Becky Martinmaas and SDFU President Doug Sombke accepting the awards on behalf of the following counties: Clay, Yankton, Hand, Faulk and Roberts counties. Beresford farmer, Matt Birgen was recognized for his leadership and service to agriculture with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award to Farmers Union and to American Agriculture. To learn more, turn to page 12.

Issues Impacting Rural America

Sarah Tyree, Vice President of Government Relations at CoBank (far right), moderated a panel with NFU President Roger Johnson, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett. The panel focused on NFU’s and AFBF’s joint Farm Town Strong campaign and USDA’s efforts to combat opioid misuse in rural America. “I didn’t realize how bad the problem was in rural America. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that is stepping up and taking the lead to help find solutions to this issue,” says Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President. “This issue also brings to light the fact that in rural America, we just don’t have access to healthcare. This makes fighting the opioid epidemic more challenging. It is also dangerous when you consider the fact that if we have an accident on the farm, we need to drive 30 or more miles to get to the hospital.”

South Dakota Farmers Union’s 2017 Torchbearers were recognized with the opportunity to attend the 2018 national convention. Those who attended include: Jim Brockel, Shadehill; Dalton Gerlach, Stickney; Hannah Sumption, Frederick; Brenna Johnson, Groton; Karly Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director; Jennifer Hanson, Britton; Marissa Holinka, Watertown; and Joseph Nugteren, Cannistota.


2017 Torchbearer, Marissa Holinka, Watertown, was elected to serve on the National Youth Advisory Council during the 2017 National Farmers Union All State’s Camp held in Bailey, Colorado. Holinka gave a keynote addressing NFU convention delegates. She credits her ability to address the crowd with the public speaking experience she gained attending SDFU Leadership Camp. “When I started camp, I wasn’t comfortable with speaking in public, but those small experiences in front of friends, who I think of as family, gave me the confidence I needed to give this speech,” Holinka says. Her speech focused on the fact that youth are the future of agriculture and how Farmers Union educational programming helps prepare educated, prepared and driven youth to support the future of agriculture.

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Union Farmer Around the State With Farmers Union

Radio Show

Read on to learn how South Dakota Farmers Union members and staff are making a difference in rural communities across South Dakota.

Yankton Sale Barn Coffee

Tune in every second Tuesday from 10-11 a.m. (CST) on 1320/107.9 KELO for SDFU Radio HOUR.

Sisseton Sale Barn Coffee

Black Hills Stock Show


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S.D. Farmers Union Members Enjoy Women in Blue Jeans 2018


orking full-time on the farm with her husband, Bill, was a goal Kathy Chase had from the beginning of their marriage. But, the ’80s showed her the necessity of working off the farm. In 2014, she had the opportunity to retire early from a 30-plus year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, although she loves her new role as a full-time farmer, Chase says she always welcomes the opportunity to socialize. “After years of working with the public all the time, although I love being on the farm, some days I need to be around other people,” she explains.

explains. “We all learn from each other. We have similar problems or circumstances in our lives because we are all involved in agriculture. By venting or sharing with each other, we can pick up ideas and know that we are not alone in what we live with on a day-to-day basis.” Audrey Keierleber agrees. This year marked the third time she has attended the event with her adult daughters. “The topics they

The last weekend in February, Women in Blue Jeans gave her and many other Farmers Union members the opportunity to do just that. As a premiere sponsor, S.D. Farmers Union covers the $40 registration fee for its members. “As a grassroots organization, S.D. Farmers Union is always looking for ways to provide support and informational opportunities to our members. Women in Blue Jeans is a great way to hit the ‘refresh’ button,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

Hosted by a dedicated volunteer group, Women in Blue Jeans is designed to provide women in agriculture with a weekend away where they can network with other women connected to agriculture and gain valuable or fun information through learning sessions. “It’s a break from the farm. I get to visit with women of all different ages, but we all have agriculture in common,” Chase



have workshops on are always topics that hit the nail right on the head of what we need to know,” Keierleber says. This year, the most valuable session she attended was focused on changes to 2018 tax laws. Both women said the speakers were top notch, but the discussion they had with other women participants was of equal value. “I attended an ag software session. After the speaker was finished, the discussion among the women about the different bookkeeping software and what they liked or didn’t like was so good. It’s nice to hear feedback because it is hard to figure out if something will work for you – and if you are going to invest money in it, you want to make the right decision,” Chase explains. “That one hour was worth my whole trip.” To learn more about Women in Blue Jeans, visit www. To learn how you can have your 2019 registration fee waived, contact Karla Hofhenke at Karla@ ■ by Lura Roti for SDFU

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Union Farmer More Around the State With Farmers Union Gregory Stock Show

Wessington Springs Farm and Home Show

SDFU member Janet Kolousek at Wessington Springs Farm and Home Show. Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator, at Gregory Farm Show.

Winner Bonanza

Rena Grim, Gregory, won the door prize.

Robert Hanson visits with District 4 Board Member and Colome farmer, Joel Keierleber.


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South Dakota’s Matt Birgen Recognized for Years of Service to Agriculture with National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award


eresford farmer Matt Birgen was recognized for his leadership and service to agriculture with the National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award during the organization’s 116th national convention held in Kansas City, Missouri, March 4-6. The National Farmers Union Meritorious Service Award recognizes members for their outstanding leadership and service to family agriculture and to Farmers Union over the course of their lifetimes. “Matt is unselfish and very forward focused. He is always looking out for the common good,” says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President. “His vision and leadership on the Farmers Union Industries board is exactly why we are in a position to continue to support the future of South Dakota’s family farmers.” Birgen served on the board of directors for Farmers Union Industries for nearly two decades. The organization owns several businesses, the dividends of which go to help fund South Dakota Farmers Union along with four other Farmers Union organizations, as well as National Farmers Union programming. Today, Birgen’s son, Larry, sits on the Farmers Union Industries board. “Dad’s influence encouraged me to give back and serve agriculture – he influenced all of us kids to get involved,” says Larry, one of seven children Matt and his wife Maureen raised on their diversified family farm. “Being involved was just natural for dad. It is just something he does.” At 88, Matt remains involved with the family farm, together with Larry and his



nephew, Steve. Along with Farmers Union Industries, throughout his lifetime, Matt, a Korean War Veteran, has remained actively involved in his local VFW, serving in many leadership positions over the last six decades; he served on the Clay County Farmers Union board of directors for more than 50 years; served on the North Central American Milk Producers Inc. board; served as President of the Clay County Board of Mutual Insurance Association board; served on the board of directors of Trucktown Cooperative; and has made several trips to Washington, D.C., to advocate for agriculture. “Our voice needs to be heard. Whether it’s as a veteran or a farmer, I believe that if I don’t participate, who will? My dad belonged to Farmers Union, he served on the board of directors, that is why I got involved,” explains Matt.

More about Birgen Family Farm Like most South Dakota farm families 50 years ago, the Birgens’ farm resembled that of the Old McDonald’s nursery rhyme. “We raised cattle, chickens, sheep, had milk cows and stock cows – but back then, everyone did. You sold cream and eggs,” says Matt, who bought the land where the farm is today with combat pay in 1955. “It was easy to raise the kids on the farm because you knew where they were and they were busy,” explains his wife, Maureen. “Most of the time they were not in trouble because they all worked on the farm. We had a big garden and milked a herd of cows.” The Birgen siblings include: Ken, Connie, Chuck, Carol Kapperman, Larry, Deb and Mary LeMieux. During the summer months, the Birgen kids would herd their dairy cows home

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for milking on bicycle. Each morning after milking, the cows were turned out to graze about 2 miles of ditches which lined the gravel road near their farm. “The neighbors asked us to keep fencing the ditches because the cows kept the weeds down,” says Matt, who farmed the

land his dad purchased in 1914. “My mom lived along the road, and the kids would stop in at Grandma’s for cookies when they herded the cows home for milking. She loved it.” During the summer months, all seven kids also made time to attend South Dakota Farmers Union camps. They are all recipients of the Torchbearer Award, the highest award recognizing youth involvement in South Dakota Farmers Union. This was the farming environment in which cousins, Larry, 56, and Steve, 64, grew up and developed a keen passion for working on the land and raising crops. Today, the men farm just a half mile apart and share equipment and machinery. “We are small farmers, so by helping each other we both benefit,” Steve says. “Because both of our wives have careers, it’s nice to know there is someone just a phone call or text away if we need help – whether it’s one of us breaking down or we need help moving a piece of equipment we are just a phone call or text away.” A generation earlier, Steve’s dad, Felix, and Matt not only shared labor and equipment, but ran a threshing business together. “You get the work done of three men when two work together well,” says Matt, who also shared labor with neighbor and longtime friend, Marvin Andersen. When Steve was only 6, Felix died in a farm accident. To learn more about the Birgen family farm, visit and click on the Celebrating Farm Families icon. ■ by Lura Roti for SDFU


Union Farmer 2018 Legisl ative Day

Nearly 40 family farmers, ranchers and rural community members traveled to the South Dakota State Capitol to visit with legislators and share their story as part of the 2018 South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day. To learn more turn to page 14.

S.D. Farmers Union Welcomes Rocky Forman to Serve as Member Services Coordinator


ocky Forman recently joined South Dakota Farmers Union as the Member Services Coordinator. “We are excited to have Rocky join our team. He has enthusiasm for service to South Dakota’s agriculture producers and agribusiness people,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. As Member Services Coordinator, Forman will organize the S.D. Farmers Union Young Producers Program, facilitate Farm Safety Trailer programming and engage in other outreach programming for members and non-members throughout South Dakota. “I enjoy helping people and look forward to sharing the South Dakota Farmers Union message of farm safety, as well as other agriculture-based programming with


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agriculture producers, their families and individuals throughout South Dakota,” Forman says. More about Rocky Forman Forman grew up on a registered cattle ranch near Ree Heights. His dad was a ranch hand and along with helping him out with cattle chores, Forman began showing cattle at the young age of 8. He enjoyed preparing cattle for show, and soon, his friends were asking him to help them fit their cattle. It wasn’t long before he had turned his hobby into a freelance fitting business which he continues today. “Through fitting, I am able to help people and I enjoy helping people – whether it’s

Rocky Forman Continued on Page 17 MARCH/APRIL 2018


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Farmers & Ranchers Share Their Story in Pierre


outh Dakota family farmers and ranchers had the opportunity to visit one-on-one with legislators Feb. 27 during the 2018 S.D. Farmers Union Legislative Day. Their presence was appreciated, says Billie Sutton, Democratic Leader from Burke. “It’s always important that farmers and ranchers make time to visit Pierre during the session,” Sutton says. “Agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry – by visiting with actual producers, together we can figure out ways to grow and diversify this Billie Sutton industry.” Kingsbury County farmer Wayne Soren agrees. “Even in South Dakota, the numbers of farmers and ranchers in our state decreases each year – and our citizens become further removed from the farm,” says Soren, who also serves as Vice President of Farmers Union. “When Farmers Union members come to Pierre, it gives legislators the opportunity to see our Wayne Soren calloused hands and tanned foreheads. They know they are visiting with the people who do the day-inday-out work.” Like Soren, sharing his thoughts on policy, is the reason Lemmon rancher Lynn Frey made the trek to Pierre. “If you don’t show up, no one will take your place. The ones who show up are the ones who are heard,” says Frey, who serves as District 6 board member. Frey was Lynn Frey eager to promote Premium E-30 during conversations with legislators. As was Farmers Union member



Dale Christensen. “Getting to visit with real people, the people actually producing the corn or working in the ethanol industry puts a real face to the industry and provides a nonpolitical point of view,” explains Christensen, who serves as a Glacial Lakes Energy board member. Promoting the use of Premium E-30 in state vehicles is a focus of Farmers Union this legislative session. And, our lobbyist Mitch Richter says having members turn out for Legislative Day helps in his lobbying efforts. “It shows that those involved in the agriculture industry are involved in what goes on under the dome and that family farmers and ranchers are paying attention to decisions legislators make when it pertains to issues which impact agriculture,” Richter says. District 16 representative Kevin Jensen agrees. “I like to hear what issues are important to farmers and ranchers,” Jensen says. “Also, none of us here are experts in everything. So, when citizens come to Pierre, I learn from them.”

SDFU members Vi and Dean Holman visit with District 16 Representative Kevin Jensen. Information gathering works both ways, explains Lincoln County member Vi Holman. “This is a good way for us to see what is important to us that the legislature is working on, and understand whether or not it impacts us,” Vi explains. David Reis, a Reliance rancher and President of Lyman County Farmers Union, agrees. “I’m so busy with our operation right now, that this is a good way for me to catch up on things and bring back information to the members in my county who were not able to make it,” he says.

Legislative Day Continued on Page 15

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Why did you save the date for Legislative Day 2018? “It’s important in a citizen legislature like ours, that as citizens, we are diligent to remind our legislators that they may want to talk brick and mortar, but their bread and butter comes from the country.” Doug Kazmerzak, Erwin farmer “I think personal contact means a lot. Legislators will listen more to a personal conversation than a telephone conversation.” Franklin Olson, Day County farmer “It’s the one time each year when Farmers Union gets to talk to a cross section of legislators from across our state and tell our story to many legislators who may not have an agriculture background.” Eileen Sestak, Bon Homme County member “I know I always looked forward to the input from Farmers Union members when I served in the legislature. Today, I’m here to encourage legislators to take the next steps with ethanol and encourage the use of E-30 in state vehicles.” Kent Frerichs, Roberts County farmer


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Parade Rancher and S.D. Legislator Encourages Other Producers to Run for Office


o longer a freshman legislator, schedules to participate in South Dakota in his second year serving Farmers Union 2018 Legislative Day made District 28A in the House of a difference. Representatives, Oren Lesmeister says “Today, even in South Dakota, there are a lot of advantages to having our state is becoming more urban. It’s one legislative session under his belt. not a bad thing, but it is the reason “Knowing the process is a big deal. we need to protect our way of life. I This year I understand decorum and say this diligently,” Lesmeister says. how things operate. Before I arrived “There are more and more senators and last session, I thought I understood representatives coming out of areas who how things worked because I had do not understand what true farming visited the Capitol several times and and ranching life is like.” paid close attention to what was going on in state politics. But, I didn’t really Because of this, Lesmeister, understand it until I was actually serving encourages other family farmers and as a legislator,” explains Lesmeister, a ranchers to run for office. “We bring Parade farmer, rancher and owner of a very good perspective, sharing what Fox Ridge Ag Supply. our world is about,” he says. “Many With first-hand experience of the times, when those not involved, hear the process, Lesmeister wants to let South word agriculture, they think corporate Dakotans know they can trust the agriculture because they don’t see the process. “It works,” he says. “It’s a family side of things. I’m not downplaying pretty amazing process to watch bills the value of large farms, but we need to come through in rough draft form, then be in Pierre to protect the family farmers go to a select committee, where they either die or are voted on the House or and ranchers.” Senate floor,” Lesmeister says. He adds that every issue he sees in He explains that most of the work Pierre impacts members of South Dakota that is done to a bill – vetting and Farmers Union. wording – is done in committee, so “If you’re a South Dakotan, you can’t citizen input is a valuable commodity. say that an issue doesn’t impact you. “There is nothing better than seeing We are a state of less than a million. a room full of people when you’re Oren Lesmeister, District 28A Representative and SDFU member Every law impacts every South Dakotan, sitting in committee – opponents or that’s when true understanding of an issue whether they are in farming or ranching or proponents,” he says. “Emails work OK, but happens.” not. It doesn’t matter. Every law we pass here there is no personalization. When you can He says that those family farmers and has an impact on every South Dakotan. ■ by stand face-to-face with a constituent and ranchers who took time out of their busy Lura Roti for SDFU hear their story and ask them questions,

Legislative Day Continued from Page 14

Reis was among a group of Farmers Union county presidents who attended a state advisory meeting held in conjunction with Legislative Day. To learn more about this meeting, turn to page 18. In addition to sitting in on committee meetings, listening in on a democratic caucus and taking in the general legislative session, members had an opportunity to visit candidly with legislators during the lunch SDFU sponsored in the Capitol dome. These candid conversations are invaluable, explains Gary Cammack, District 29 Representative. “Right or wrong, its


easier to dismiss an email than a topic that comes up in conversation. Face-toface conversations guarantee interaction,” says Cammack, a Union Center rancher and owner of Cammack Ranch Supply. “It’s really important that people in agriculture be wiling to get involved. We will never be the majority of the numbers in Pierre, so it is even more important that we are here when decisions are being made that impact us.” With more than 40 members turning out for Legislative Day, South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers were well represented in Pierre. “Times are tough in agriculture. Our family farmers and ranchers are the first to feel

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the financial pinch and their communities are hurting right along with them – as is our state’s overall economy. The turnout today truly put a face to the issues impacting our family farms and ranchers,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President and a fourth-generation Conde farmer. “We’re a grassroots organization and Legislative Day is a true example of grassroots policy development in action.” In September, SDFU will be taking a group of family farmers and ranchers to D.C. to visit with our congressional leaders. If you’re interested in participating, contact Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, 605-3526763 ext. 114 or ■



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Lake Area Technical Institute Joins S.D. Farmers Union for College Conference on Cooperatives


raditionally, when cooperatives come to mind most people think agriculture. For Bailey Miles and other students attending the College Conference on Cooperatives (CCOC) in Minneapolis that is far from the case. “This conference reminded me that cooperatives have so much variety and serve so many different purposes,” says Miles, who is pursuing a commodity merchandising degree from Lake Area Technical Institute. Hosted by National Farmers Union, the three-day seminar works to accomplish just that. “Cooperatives play an important role in strengthening rural and urban economies and communities across the country. NFU’s CCOC engages tomorrow’s agricultural leaders in applying cooperative business principles and learning about opportunities available to them through the cooperative model,” says NFU President Roger Johnson. Throughout the conference, students toured a number of cooperatives and heard from representatives and farmers from traditional and value-added agricultural cooperatives, housing and worker-owned co-


ops, and consumer cooperatives. They also gained insight into cooperative development, as well as the challenges facing the industry from current cooperative leaders, farmers and members. “This conference allowed me to network with people from all over the country and learn viewpoints of those involved in different aspects of agriculture, like organic farmers and how they provide local stores with produce,” says Kyle Smidt, a student who is pursuing an ag business degree from Lake Area Technical Institute. Miles and Smidt were among a large group of Lake Area Technical Institute students who attended the College Conference on Cooperatives and were sponsored by South Dakota Farmers Union. “Cooperative education is a foundation of South Dakota Farmers Union educational programing,” explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director. “It’s important to give post-secondary students a new view on cooperatives and how they serve urban environments.” These are the reasons that Farmers Union continues to invest in CCOC.

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“This conference gave students a cooperative experience they may have never seen and an extra tour for South Dakota by adding the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative tour on our way,” says HaighBlume. “They met with cooperative owners, learned how intensive the agronomy side of production is, learned how intensive and expensive harvest equipment and timing can be, and toured a beet sugar cooperative facility to see their byproducts and sugar first hand. There are students at the conference from all across the United States and other countries, giving them an opportunity to talk about various farming practices and cooperatives where they live.” In addition to visiting several area cooperatives, they also toured the Mill City Museum, a river-front museum built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union educational programming, visit ■ by Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist


Union Farmer Award Trip Gives Farmers Union Youth a Look into the Legislative Process Seven youth earned a two-day trip to Pierre where they participated in S.D. Farmers Union Legislative Day activities and learned more about the history and function of our state’s capital city. LEFT to RIGHT: Matthew Olson, Luke Thompson, Jessica Temple, Elle Hoops, Kelcey Butler, Sadie Streff and Skylar Cox.


hen you’re a young person, politics can be confusing. South Dakota’s Legislature is now more understandable for the South Dakota teens who attended the South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Award Trip Feb. 27-28. “The legislative process impacts our everyday life greatly so it’s interesting to get an inside look at how everything works,” says Sadie Streff, 15, and a freshman at Clark High School. “Sitting in on committee meetings and touring the Capitol helped me learn a lot about lawmaking.” Also attending the trip, Skylar Cox, 18, and a senior at Frederick Area High School, adds, “It may Sadie Streff seem like an easy job to be a lawmaker, but it’s really not, all of the things they have to consider seems really stressful.” The other students who participated in this trip include: Kelcey Butler, Philip; Elle Hoops, Huron; Matthew Olson, Frederick; Jessica Temple, Clark; and Luke Thompson,

New Underwood. During the trip youth had the opportunity to attend S.D. Farmers Union Legislative Day, to sit in on committee meetings, Senate and House Floor Sessions and tour the Capitol. They also learned about the state budget process, practiced parliamentary procedure, met with their local legislators, toured the Law Enforcement Training Academy and sat down with South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.

“Our trip is an opportunity for the youth to delve deeper into what happens in the legislative process,” says Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director. “The trip acts as one of four reward trips that youth can earn throughout their high school years.” Haigh-Blume explains that this reward trip coincides with what Farmers Union founding principles and triangle – Cooperation, Legislation and Education. Their first year youth can attend State Leadership Camp

at half price, the second year is the Pierre Legislative Trip, the third year is a trip to Minneapolis to learn about cooperatives and the fourth year students can earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Camp in Colorado. The fifth year is their Torchbearer Award, the highest honor bestowed upon youth in Farmers Union. Torchbearers earn a Skylar Cox trip to the National Farmers Union Convention. “In today’s political climate, it’s important that we teach youth about how democracy and the legislative process work. If youth aren’t well informed it’s hard for them to get involved, make decisions or contribute,” says Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. To learn more about this program, contact Haigh-Blume at or visit ■ by Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist

for Stan’s Feed in Alpena and then for Dakotaland Feeds. Today, Forman and his wife, Mandi, have two young daughters, Mayli, 3, and Remzi, 3 months. He says now that he is a father, farm safety is very important to him. Through his work with S.D. Farmers Union Forman will be providing South Dakota youth with hands-on learning opportunities as he

travels the state with the Farm Safety Trailer. Along with grain storage and machinery safety, the safety trailer also teaches ATV safety with an ATV safety simulator. To learn more about how you can reserve the S.D. Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer for your 4-H club or FFA chapter, contact Forman at ■ by Lura Roti for SDFU

“The legislative process impacts our everyday life greatly so it’s interesting to get an inside look.” – Sadie Streff, Clark High School freshman

Rocky Forman Continued from Page 13 volunteering to help 4-H and FFA kids or helping producers get ready for bull sales,” Forman says. An agriculture business graduate of Lake Area Technical Institute, Forman spent much of his career working in feed sales and as a cattle nutrition consultant. “Again, I like working with producers and helping them be successful,” says Forman, who worked


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Advisory Committee Meets with Public Utilities Commission and School & Public Lands Leadership


uring the 2018 Legislative Day Advisory Committee Meeting, county presidents met with Chris Nelson, South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner, and Ryan Brunner, School and Public Lands Commissioner, for a candid discussion about the services and responsibilities these departments oversee. “We want county presidents to have a better understanding of how state government and the departments within state government work, so they can bring this information back to their members and feel comfortable contacting state leadership with issues,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President. Each year SDFU invites leaders from departments within state government to meet with the county presidents. Dick Kolousek, a Wessington Springs farmer and Jerauld/Buffalo County President, said he appreciated the conversation. “It was an opportunity to become more knowledgeable about how things work in the state and how we can work with the state to understand issues and work together for solutions,” Kolousek says. During the visit with Brunner, he explained that the department works with many of South Dakota’s agriculture producers, leasing some 760,000 acres of grazing and farmground. Leases are granted through an auction process, with all funds returning to help fund schools throughout the state – funds are allocated equally throughout the state on a per student basis – property taxes return to local school districts. “We do have a lot of school and public land in Philip, so it was interesting to find out more about what the state does with the money they receive from this land,” says Sandee Gittings, Haakon County President. Lisa Snedeker, Gittings works part-time Gail Temple as a Field Enumerator for the and Sandee National Agricultural Statistics Gittings Service (NASS), so she was also interested in learning how School and Public Lands utilizes data she helps collect for NASS, when setting rental rates. This year 213,000 acres of School and Public Land acres come up for lease. To learn more about auction dates and parcel details, visit Wind energy and elevator bonding were the focus of the conversation with Chris Nelson, Public Utilities Commissioner (PUC). He explained the recent resurgence in enthusiasm over wind energy and the process developers of wind energy need to go through with his department if they plan to install 100 megawatts or more of wind capacity. “Why are we seeing such a big rush? Two things – the production tax credit will go away in 2020, so companies say they want to get projects going before the incentive goes away. Secondly, the raw cost of wind energy has come way down, so it has become economically competitive,” Nelson says. He explains that before a wind developer receives permitting, the



PUC first seeks public input. Then, opponents and proponents go on the record during official hearings. Based on the information from the legal hearings, the PUC decides to approve or decline a permit. “When we are working through the permit process, it doesn’t matter what the PUC thinks of the project, it all comes down to whether or not the developer can prove they can meet criteria that is established in state law,” Nelson explains. The straightforward nature of the discussion provided valuable insight, says Gail Temple, District 3 Board Member and Clark County President. “Anytime we have a chance to have a direct link with decision makers, it is beneficial,” Temple says. Lisa Snedeker, District 2 President and Board Member, agreed. “Anytime we can gain a deeper understanding of government, it helps us as leaders in our communities, inform others,” Snedeker says. Spurred on by the recent bankruptcy of an elevator in Kingsbury County, Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President, introduced a discussion on elevator bonding. “We need to protect the farmers. Four years ago, this bankruptcy would hurt area farmers, but no one would have gone out of business. Today, it’s a different time and some will go broke due to this,” Soren explains. Dick Kolousek Nelson explained that the PUC is working to implement processes and provide tools that will do a better job of keeping producers informed on the financial status of grain elevators. For example, beginning in 2018, PUC auditors will be reviewing elevator finances quarterly. Nelson encouraged producers who are concerned over the financial status of their local elevators to reach out to the PUC by calling 605773-3201 and connecting to the grain warehouse extension. ■ by Lura Roti for SDFU

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S.D. Farmers Union Provides Professional Leadership Training Through REAL Program


or Angela Hawkinson, the investment her community of Britton, South Dakota, made in her, has had a large impact on her life. She credits Britton with helping shape her into the person that she is today. “I was raised in my community and now I

Angela Hawkinson

live in it and have built my life here,” explains Hawkinson, who works in human resources and bookkeeping for Full Circle Ag. “This community has given me so much and I’m proud of this place. Now I feel like it’s my turn to give back to it and invest in its future like it did in mine.” To help her invest in her rural community, Hawkinson is furthering her leadership skills through the professional development program, Rural Economic and Leadership Development (REAL) program. Developed by South Dakota Farmers Union, REAL is designed to encourage and support rural professionals, like Hawkinson, by providing them with professional and leadership development. “By finding ways to advance my professional knowledge I’m able to give back more to the leadership roles I hold in my community and I’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to my job,” says Hawkinson. The REAL program connects rural professionals with experts, participants work on media and promotion, parliamentary procedure, communication skills, having difficult conversations and other



programming and networking opportunities through a series of seminars. “This program is about training the next generation of leaders and those who are already in leadership positions through various placements within their communities,” explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director. “Participants learn how to work with boards and make difficult decisions that impact their communities. The most important aspect of REAL is creating a network of individuals to bounce some ideas off of. It’s helpful to get some outside input. In small towns there are difficult conversations every day when it comes to decisions. REAL participants are given the skills to have these conversations without impacting relationships with neighbors.” Enhancing her leadership and communication skills was the reason Kristi Leisinger, Crooks, took the time away from her healthcare business, Copperleaf Consulting Group. “Besides working in my healthcare career, my family and I volunteered about 300 hours last year to local non-profit organizations,” says Leisinger. “Opportunities like this help remind me of how to be a good communicator and leader when working with teams. The best impact I’ll take out of this is learning to be a better board member and learning to put myself in my teammates’ shoes.”

Kristi Leisinger

Hawkinson and Leisinger are among a group of South Dakotans from various rural communities to participate in the 2018 REAL program. REAL participants recently completed their last session, held in Watertown. The 2018 series of REAL sessions focused on personal motivation, leadership strategy, goal achievement and community growth. To learn more about this program, contact Haigh-Blume at or visit ■ by Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist

Presenter Sharon Chontos, leads a REAL workshop focused on leadership development and strategies to effectively work with or be a member of a board.

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Union Farmer Get to Know the 2017-2018 Senior Advisory Council Members


addie Kline and Taylin Montague were selected to serve on the 20172018 Senior Advisory Council during the 2017 South Dakota Farmers Union state convention held in Huron in December. In this role, Kline, a freshman at South Dakota State University, and Montague, a senior at New Underwood High School planning to attend Black Hills State University in the fall, will provide advice and act as mentors to the six-member Junior Advisory Council. Below, the youth leaders visit about what they look forward to in this new leadership role and discuss how the personal leadership development and communication skills they developed through Farmers Union educational programming has helped prepare them to be mentors. What are you most looking forward to in this new leadership role? Maddie Kline Answers: I’m looking forward to making my last year in camp

Maddie Kline

Taylin Montague

the best year yet. With my leadership skills and past experience as a member of the Junior Advisory Council (JACs), I will be able to mentor the current JACs through the obstacles of their new roles. I can teach them how to be better leaders and mentors among other campers and how to go about things. Taylin Montague Answers: I look forward to the opportunity to give back to Farmers Union. Being an influence and role model to upcoming campers is an honor and is something I have always aspired to. To me, serving on the Senior Advisory Council means that I am a productive member of Farmers Union, I am an advocate and others see me as a strong leader and role model. How did Farmers Union prepare you for this mentorship role? Maddie Kline Answers: In Farmers Union, we talk a lot about leadership and cooperation and what that means for youth. We get to learn how to make the most out of our leadership ability while having fun along

the way. The skills that Farmers Union has instilled in me helped me throughout high school and now I can take those skills with me to college. Taylin Montague Answers: Farmers Union has taught me a countless amount of skills and lessons. After being awarded the Bob Janish Memorial Friendship Award, I was brought to the realization of how many people see what I do and how I am as a person. Because of Farmers Union I have learned that being a positive influence and someone others can look up to is incredibly rewarding. I have learned that stepping up and taking a leadership role is not scary but an honor. To learn more about Farmers Union education programs, contact Rachel HaighBlume, Education Director, at Rachel@sdfu. org or visit â– by Christina Dexter, SDFU Legislative Specialist

2018 REAL Class in Pierre (Left to Right) Dan Malsam, Angela Hawkinson, Kristi Leisinger, Paula Blue, Brad Olson. Not pictured: Anita Holan


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S.D. Farmers Union Foundation Supports Future of Agriculture with Scholarship


mproving the entire rural landscape through research that enables farmers to take a holistic approach to field management is the bold vision that drives Mike Bredeson, a South Dakota State University doctorate student and the recipient of the $2,500 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship. “Our rural communities are struggling for many reasons. Agriculture is the foundation of rural communities. If we can bolster our agricultural producers by helping them to diversify their operations, conserve natural resources and improve profitability, the result will be invigorated farm economies,” explains Bredeson, a south-central Minnesota farmboy who is currently pursuing a doctorate in agroecology in the Natural Resource Management Department at SDSU. Supporting students, like Bredeson, is the reason South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awards a graduate school scholarship each year. “Education is a focus of S.D. Farmers Union Foundation because it is key to the sustainability of agriculture and rural communities,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President and a fourth-generation Conde farmer. A full-time student, married to a full-time student, Bredeson said the scholarship means a lot to him and his family. “It’s enormous. Although I do receive a stipend for my research work, it’s small. My wife is also a graduate student, so this scholarship means a lot to us as we pursue our dreams,” he says. More about Mike Bredeson Bredeson’s interest in holistic agriculture took root during a summer internship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agriculture Research Service lab in Brookings. “I learned that the field of agricultural research is a complex and multifaceted system. I also gained an intimate understanding of how farm management impacts natural resource quality, wildlife, and ultimately,



“Agriculture is the foundation of rural communities. If we can bolster our agricultural producers by helping them to diversify their operations, conserve natural resources, and improve profitability, the result will be invigorated farm economies.” Mike Bredeson is a South Dakota State University doctorate student and the recipient of the $2,500 South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship.

humans,” Bredeson says. He pursued an undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in botany and then received a master’s of science in biology from SDSU in 2015. Throughout his educational career, Bredeson’s research has focused on agriculture management practices and whether or not they are sustainable. His master’s research has focused on neonicotinoid insecticides, and whether or not pesticidal seed treatments are beneficial to sunflower yields. His research showed that insecticidal seed treatments do not improve farmers profitability and may actually hurt the sustainability of sunflower production by reducing the abundance of predatory and pollinating insects. His work is published. Currently, he is working with the Brookings-based, nonprofit agriculture research lab, ECDYSIS, conducting research that deals with how to diversify the corn ecosystem in the U.S. by interseeding cover crops. “Mike is a versatile and knowledgeable scientist who will not shy away from approaching complex experimental problems using novel tools and perspectives. He is passionately committed to providing transformative, long-term and sustainable solutions to conservation-minded farming,” said Jonathan Lundgren, Director Adjunct Faculty at South Dakota State University, Natural Resource Management Department, Department of Plant Science and Department of Biology and Microbiology. Through his doctorate research at ECDYSIS, Bredeson said he is working to

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support the nonprofit’s mission to work with pioneering producers interested in being profitable, while at the same time protecting natural resources. “We’re working with farmers who aren’t interested in winning the highest corn yield contest, they want to diversify their farming system to be more stable economically and ecologically,” Bredeson says. “Through holistic management practices, which add crop diversity and build soil health, we can improve a farmer’s bottom line in a way that is sustainable while also striving to improve rural vitality.” He is excited about his work to diversify corn monocultures through interseeding cover crops. The concept is that by interseeding covercrops into corn, producers will receive many of the benefits found within a diversified cropping system. The project Bredeson is working on looks at how interseeding cover crops will impact insect communities, and specifically, how predatory insects affect corn pests when plant diversity is increased. Bredeson said this research could have far-reaching impacts. “Everyone who turns on the tap and drinks water benefits from an agriculture system that holds onto nutrients and requires fewer pesticides,” he says. To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation and the work it does to support South Dakota’s family farmers, ranchers and rural communities, visit ■ by Lura Roti for SDFU


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South Dakota Farmers Union Kicks Off Campaign to Raise Awareness of Farm Bill


nduring the worst economic slide in generations, South Dakota farm and ranch families need Congress to pass a farm bill in 2018 to strengthen the farm safety net. “When it comes to the commodity markets, this is one of the worst years we have had in a long time,” explains Taylor Sumption, a fourth-generation Frederick farmer who, together with his dad and four brothers, raise crops and livestock. Sumption’s comments are echoed among farm and ranch families nationwide, says Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

a website (, a farm bill video, animated short videos, weekly promotions and a petition. Sumption is among several family farmers asked to share their family’s farm story and how a new farm bill will have a positive impact on their ability to raise a safe, affordable food supply while sustainably managing resources for future generations. “I think many times, when the public hears about a new farm bill

“Commodity prices are low, and net farm income is projected to be down $4.3 billion nationally this year. We need Congress to start working on a farm bill immediately.” – Doug Sombke, SDFU President

Fourth generation Frederick farmer Taylor Sumption (second from left) with dad, John, and brothers, Warren (far left) Chris, Eric and Mark. Sumption is among several family farmers asked to share their family’s farm story as part of Farmers Union campaign to raise awareness of the need for a 2018 farm bill.

“Commodity prices are low, and net farm income is projected to be down $4.3 billion nationally this year. We need Congress to start working on a farm bill immediately,” says Doug Sombke, a fourthgeneration Conde farmer. “Agriculture is South Dakota’s No. 1 industry – and it’s hurting right now. Family farmers need to be certain of crop insurance and other programs in the farm bill, so they can plan accordingly with their lenders in this time of low prices.” Working to raise awareness of the need for a 2018 farm bill, South Dakota Farmers Union teamed up with other states and National Farmers Union to launch a digital campaign. The campaign includes




or U.S. Department of Agriculture expenditures, they think about it as handouts to farmers and ranchers. What they don’t realize and maybe, take for granted is in America, we have the safest and most economical food supply in the world,” Sumption explains. “This has a trickle down effect. Look at the way our country leads in technological advancement. Americans haven’t had to worry about a safe and cheap food supply, so engineers can focus on being engineers and scientists can focus on being scientists. We need a farm bill passed in 2018 so American farmers and ranchers can continue to farm and ranch.” Three short animated videos are also being launched to help the general public understand what the farm bill is, what Farmers Union’s ideal farm bill looks like and how to advocate for the farm bill. To view the videos, visit “Family farmers and consumers alike are in urgent need of strong farm and food policies to be passed in the farm bill this year,” says National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “As the agriculture committees ready to propose farm bill legislation, Farmers Union wants to be sure all members of Congress understand why the farm bill is so vital to family farm agriculture, our land, our rural communities and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. We’re hopeful this campaign can bridge the support of the entire farm and food community.” On Capitol Hill, the grassroots, family farm organization is calling on Congress to strengthen programs that support family farm agriculture, vibrant rural communities, a clean environment and hungry Americans. Family farmers, consumers, lawmakers and advocates are encouraged to share the video on social media, tweet with the hashtag #FarmBillNow, and sign the petition to call on Congress to pass a farm bill in 2018. ■

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Union Farmer Roger Johnson National Farmers Union President


n March, National Farmers Union continued its grassroots policy process at the organization’s 116th Anniversary Convention. Delegates from across the country reviewed NFU’s policy book line-by-line, deliberating and voting on amendments. The revised book and additional nine special orders of business will determine NFU’s priorities for the coming year Farmers Union Delegates Pass Policy Book, Adopt Special Orders of Business Farmers Union members participate in the organization’s annual grassroots policy adoption process. More than 190 delegates from 33 states spent a day and a half engaging in thoughtful policy deliberations, ultimately passing NFU’s Policy Book and nine special orders of business that will guide the organization’s government affairs priorities over the course of the next year. The orders of business pertain to many current policy issues, including the maintenance of Section 199A, a tax provision that allows for the deduction of up to 20 percent of gross agriculture sales made to agriculture cooperatives. Other orders address the current state of the farm economy, promoting higher blends of ethanol, asking Congress for meaningful relief for struggling dairy farmers, and advocating for fair trade agreements. Delegates also focused several of the orders on the upcoming Farm Bill, demanding that Congress pass a bill on time that is fully funded, strengthens the farm safety net, maintains strong nutrition programs, and increases conservation spending. Additional orders of business concerned immigration policy and farm labor, empowering family farmers and ranchers to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and accurately labeling synthetic and engineered animal byproduct alternatives. Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network Provides Assistance to Struggling Farmers In March, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives introduced the STRESS Act Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide - which would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). FRSAN was authorized as a 2008 Farm Bill program, but it has never been funded. It was meant to provide farmers with affordable stress assistance programs. It would have provided funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to state departments of agriculture and cooperative extensions for helplines and websites, training for farm advocates, support groups, outreach services and activities, and home delivery of assistance. Farming can be an incredibly high-stress occupation. Unpredictable weather, crop disease, volatile markets, risk of injury, overwhelming



workloads, and social isolation are just a handful of the stressors that family farmers and ranchers cope with on a daily basis. At the same time, many farmers and ranchers don’t have access to assistance when they need help. They may not have the financial resources for a lawyer, making it challenging to resolve disputes. Additionally, many farm families lack access to mental health services. In fact, 60 percent of rural Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages. This is alarming considering the fact that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), farmers have a higher rate of suicide than any other occupation. Given the current state of the U.S. farm economy and the many stressors that family farmers are facing, Farmers Union applauded the bill’s introduction and urged Congress to strengthen FRSAN and provide it with robust funding in the next Farm Bill.. NFU Urges Congress to Reject Elimination of Section 199A Though the recently-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act offered few benefits to family farmers and ranchers, there was a small silver lining, known as Section 199A. The provision gives farm families the ability to deduct up to 20 percent of gross agriculture sales made to agriculture cooperatives, thus leveling the playing field with corporations, who received a dramatic 40 percent tax break under the new legislation. Unfortunately, after pushback from agricultural corporations, members of Congress have proposed eliminating this provision, instead replacing it with the original, and much more modest, tax deduction under Section 199. National Farmers Union opposed this suggestion, saying it would “strike at the single most important benefit family farmers received from tax reform.” NFU called on Congress to reject the proposal and instead “advance bipartisan legislation that removes wage limitations and maintains a farmer gross sales deduction that evens the playing field between corporations and cooperatives.” Withdrawal of OLPP a Blow to Family Farmers, Organic Label The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) formally withdrew the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule. The rule would have clarified animal welfare standards under the National Organic Program (NOP) by outlining how organic livestock is raised, handled, transported, and slaughtered. Currently, organic certifiers are inconsistently applying animal welfare standards to farming and ranching operations, causing

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confusion among consumers and undermining the integrity, and therefore power, of the organic label. By providing clearer guidelines, the OLPP rule would have mitigated the problem by standardizing organic livestock and poultry practices that producers need to meet for the voluntary NOP. NFU opposed the decision when it was first announced in December, and again expressed dismay when it was formally enacted this month. The withdrawal will exacerbate consumer confusion about the meaning of the organic label, which is often conflated with animal welfare. Additionally, it will disadvantage family farmers and ranchers who already adhere to stricter welfare standards, as it will put them on an uneven playing field with operations who do not comply with such standards but still benefit from the organic label. NFU Continues to Defend RFS Amidst a series of meetings among administration officials, legislators, and representatives from biofuel and oil companies regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), National Farmers Union has continued to support of the nation’s premier biofuel policy. In early March, NFU joined five other prominent farm organizations to send President Donald Trump a letter urging him to uphold the RFS and emphasizing the importance of the RFS to rural communities and family farmers and ranchers, particularly as the farm economy has been in a persistent downslide for the past several years. The following week, NFU also reiterated its opposition to a proposal to cap prices for Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) which are required to comply with the RFS. The proposal stands to undermine growth in the biofuels industry and disincentivize blending of homegrown, renewable fuels in our transportation sector. Instead, NFU recommended that the Administration lift the summertime restriction on the sale of E15, which would both boost ethanol production and decrease costs for refiners by instituting new RINs. Despite its numerous benefits to family farmers, rural communities, and the environment, the RFS has drawn the ire of many politicians from oil-producing states, who perceive the policy as a threat to refineries. The meetings were intended to resolve these concerns, although at the time of publication, it appeared little progress had been made. The White House has agreed to continue discussing the matter. Details and dates for future meetings have not yet been made public. ■ Current as of 3-15-2018


Union Farmer South Dakota

From the President....

Addressing Today’s Needs With An Eye to the Future


ur South Dakota delegation helped elect Patty Edelburg of Scandinavia, Wisconsin, to serve as the new National Farmers Union Vice President. That was one of many important tasks our delegates preformed during the 116th Convention. Patty’s story is inspirational because it reflects many of our own stories. Her family lost the dairy farm she grew up on during a dairy crisis in the 1990s. We can all relate to tough times in agriculture. Today, we are in the midst of a crisis unlike I’ve seen since the 1980s. Everyone in agriculture, large and small is hurting. We need to come together and fight for better prices, better trade opportunities and a new farm bill that offers the protections we need to survive. It doesn’t matter what your agriculture operation looks like – we need to stand together. I brought up this fact during the pre-convention board meeting of state presidents. Encouraging presidents to visit with delegates to ensure that all members, whether conventional, organic, large or small, have an equal voice during convention. As an organization, we need to remind government to pay attention to the little guy and the middle guy. Based on policy discussion and decision, it seems we are all on a very similar page. South Dakota Farmers Union delegates represented you and our state organization well. I thank them for taking the time away from their family farms and ranches to be the voice of South Dakota. Farmers Union. During convention SDFU delegates brought forward several Special Orders of Business which passed to bring attention to E-30 as a healthful alternative to traditional premium fuels; to make changes to crop insurance that will put more risk control in the hands of producers through the promotion of IMSET (Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool) and


Union Farmer


Doug Sombke SDFU President

to ensure the integrity of meat protein. To learn more about these special orders of business turn back to page 6. To read about IMSET, developed by Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, pick up the December 2017 issue of Union Farmer. I started this letter referencing our new NFU Vice President, and I’d like to share some more of her back story with you. Like many farm kids, Patty never lost her passion for farming and agriculture. She and her husband eventually got back into dairying and today, with their children, they operate a small 120-head dairy. Patty served on the Wisconsin Farmers Union state board of directors and was appointed by President Obama to serve as Farm Service Agency Director. She truly understands the struggles of established family farmers and the challenges to starting from scratch. She really connected with the young and beginning farmers attending national convention and I can see that Patty will help lead our organization as we move into the future. Looking to the future with hope As your voice, know that South Dakota Farmers Union is lobbying for you and your future as family farmers and ranchers. Just as we brought your policy to National Convention and Pierre, our team continues to work on your behalf each and every day.

South Dakota Union Farmer, ISSN 0745-8797, publishes 10 times per calendar year, with issues printed in January, February, March, April, May/June, July/August, September, October, November and December. Periodical postage paid at Madison, S.D. POSTMASTER: Address changes to: SDFU, PO Box 1388, Huron, S.D. 57350-1388

Contact SDFU • 605.352.6761 1410 Dakota Avenue South, PO Box 1388, Huron, SD 57350

SDFU State Office Staff Karla Hofhenke.......ext. 114 Executive Director Huron Kayla Foreman ............ ext. 118 Controller Miller

Christina Dexter............ext 122 Legislative Specialist Huron

Kecia Beranek.............. ext. 113 Communications Specialist Miller

Luanne Thompson.......ext. 111 Administrative Assistant Virgil

Pam Evenson................ ext. 116 Membership Specialist Doland

Karon Rembold.............ext 111 Receptionist Miller

Rachel Haigh-Blume.... ext. 125 Education Director Tulare

Rocky Forman...............ext 117 Member Services Coordinator Huron

SDFU Board of Directors Doug Sombke.........President Groton

Wayne Soren.. Vice President Lake Preston Terry Sestak.............. District I Tabor Lisa Snedeker........... District II Woonsocket Gail Temple............. District III Clark

Contact NFU

Joel Keierleber........District IV Colome Dallis Basel...............District V Union Center Lynn Frey.................District VI Lemmon Chad Johnson........District VII Groton

National Farmers Union 20 F Street NW Suite 300 Washington, DC 20001

Roger Johnson, President ~ Patty Edelburg, Vice President Darin Von Ruden, Secretary ~ Doug Sombke, Treasurer 202.554.1600

Doug Sombke President South Dakota Farmers Union

The South Dakota Union Farmer is published 10 times per calendar year. Karla Hofhenke, Publisher Lura Roti, Editor ~ Wendy Sweeter, Copy Editor Diane Martinson, Layout & Design

All information for publication must be submitted by the 15th of the month. You may submit items by mail to the State Office, P.O. Box 1388, Huron, SD 57350 or email items to:

Union Farmer



Union Farmer 2018 Legislative Update By Mitch Richter

The 2018 Legislative Session has just wrapped up. Our eyes and ears, lobbyist Mitch Richter, has an update on the issues that are impacting South Dakota Farmers Union members.

93rd Legislative Session Wrap-Up

The 93rd legislative session came to a close March 9. There were several bills that will impact South Dakota agriculture into the future. Let me outline these for you.

SDSU Building for Agriculture’s Future

South Dakota State University was given permission, along with funding, to build a Precision Agriculture Teaching and Research Facility. SDSU is the first four-year university to offer a precision agriculture major. This facility will aid in SDSU leading the way in developing the precision agriculture workforce of tomorrow. Legislative leaders provided funding streams for bonding of $18 million and some one-time funds. Berg Agriculture Hall on the campus of SDSU also received $10 million for an approved renovation. However, SDSU will need to find approximately $10 million to finish that project.

Non-Meandered Waters

The non-meandered waters topic was discussed in both houses. At the end of the day, legislators voted to remove the sunset clause and put in statute passed during the special session in June 2017.

The wildlife groups attempted to put in place a due process system to allow petitioning of open and closing bodies of water. Ultimately this was defeated, and the governor’s position prevailed.

Quarterly Statements

Public grain buyers are now required to provide the Public Utilities Commission with a certified financial statement four times a year instead of two times. This is an attempt to prevent and/ or uncover fraudulent grain buyers from misappropriating grain and money from producers.

Crop liens laws

Crop liens laws were updated to include many of the newer crops that are now raised in South Dakota. The old language dated back to statehood and included potatoes as one of the seed crops. The laws were brought current to reflect today’s crops and agriculture practices. ■ Current as of March 12, 2018

American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union Working Together to Fight Opioid Crisis


s farming communities face mounting challenges with the nation’s opioid epidemic, the nation’s two largest general farm organizations are teaming up to confront the issue. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) announced a new campaign, “Farm Town Strong,” to raise awareness of the crisis’ impact on farming communities. The campaign will also provide resources and information to help farm communities and encourage farmer-to-farmer support to overcome the crisis. The groups have launched a new website,, to provide easy access to information and resources that can help struggling farm families and rural communities. The Farm Town Strong campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey commissioned by AFBF and NFU that highlighted how the opioid epidemic has hit farmers and farm workers especially hard. While just under half



of rural Americans say they, a family member or friend have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, for farmers and farm workers, it’s 74 percent. A strong majority of respondents also support increasing public awareness of anti-opioid resources and reducing the stigma that surrounds addiction to help solve the opioid crisis. “Farm country has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic – even harder than rural America as a whole, or big cities,” says AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s going to take everyone working together to combat this crisis to make a difference. That’s why Farm Bureau and Farmers Union are teaming up to show unity on this issue and encourage farm families to help their neighbors. If you or a family member has been affected by opioid addiction, it’s important to talk about it so that others will know they are not fighting this alone.” “Opioid addiction—along with all of its consequences—is a silent, but very real, crisis for our farming communities,” says

Union Farmer

NFU President Roger Johnson. “The lack of services, treatment and support exacerbates the issue in rural areas, and the negative stigma associated with addiction makes it hard for farmers to discuss the problem. Too often, those struggling with addiction and their family members don’t seek the support they need. Through the Farm Town Strong campaign, we’re tackling this crisis head-on by encouraging more dialogue, more information sharing, and more farmer-tofarmer engagement.” The two organizations will also hold public events and launch a social media campaign, #FarmTownStrong, to highlight the crisis and share resources. Duvall and Johnson led a discussion on overcoming the opioid crisis Jan. 8 at the 2018 AFBF Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville, Tennessee. More information on the campaign can be found at ■ Courtesy of NFU


Union Farmer THANK YOU SOUTH DAKOTA FARMERS UNION South Dakota Farmers Union, On behalf of the Co-op Principles class, we thank you for all the accommodations and the opportunity to learn the capacity of Co-ops. Thank you, Lake Area Technical Co-op Principles Class

Thank you so very much for sponsoring my registration at Women In Blue Jeans this year. As always it was an awesome and fun time! It is also enjoyable to reconnect with the Farmers Union personnel. You all do an outstanding job! Thank you so very much!! Bev Rubel

To Whom It May Concern: On behalf of the Co-op Principles class, we thank you for the opportunity to receive the scholarship you have given me. It is a great honor to have received this scholarship. I know it will help me in the future. Once again, thank you for this. Sincerely, Joseph Nugteren


Dear South Dakota Farmers Union, Thank you for my entry fee to Women in Blue Jeans. I enjoyed the informational meetings. I took part in farm marketing basics, 2017 tax reform, healthy soils, farm finance tips and more. Information on meth and opioids is scary. Well worth our time. Hand crafted brewing was informational, fun and tasty! The Farmers Union gals from your office did a great job with snacks and fun! Thanks again, JoAnn Weisz Parkston, South Dakota

John Kayser, 27, of Alexandria, South Dakota died Jan. 20 as a result of a farm accident. He is survived by his parents David and Sandy Kayser and six siblings and their families. Pearl Chambers, formerly of Colome, South Dakota, passed away Jan. 17. She was a former Tripp County president. She is survived by her three children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Robert “Bob” Nichols, age 84 of Watertown, South Dakota, passed away March 4. Bob is survived by his wife, Dorothy, daughter, Sharese (Scott) Jensen, son, Todd (Darci) Nichols. Todd is a Farmers Union Insurance Agent. LeRoy “Bud” Temple, age 87 of Clark, South Dakota, passed away Feb. 22. Bud is survived by his wife, Joyce, children Brian (Ann), Bruce (Beth), Beth Kissel and Brad (Gail). Gail is District 3 state board member.


Cocoa Syrup for Ice Cream

Luanne Thompson, Virgil, South Dakota, SDFU Administrative Assistant

½ c. cocoa 1 c. sugar Pinch of salt ½ c. milk

2 T. corn syrup Vanilla 1 T. butter

Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt. Add milk and corn syrup. Stir until dissolved. Cook over low heat until jellied mass is formed when dropped from spoon. Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter. WWW.SDFU.ORG

Union Farmer

Farmers Union signs available Show your Farmers Union spirit with a special Farmers Union sign. Available for a limited time, the sign makes a fun addition to the farm driveway, the side of a barn or even a statement piece in the house. The cost per sign is $10 or free with a 5-year or greater membership to Farmers Union. To get yours today, contact Membership Specialist Pam Evenson at 605-352-6761 ext 116 or at PEvenson@

Order Your Own Copy of the Farmers Union Centennial Cookbook Cookbooks are $10 plus tax and shipping. Contact Pam Evenson, 605-352-6761, ext 116, to place your order today!

SDFU CLIP AND SAVE CALENDAR APRIL 10 KELO AM Radio, 10 a.m. Sioux Falls 16 Team Up to Safety Quiz Bowl, Brookings MAY 8 KELO AM Radio Show, Sioux Falls 8-10 Statewide Insurance Convention, Huron 9 Dakota Prairie Golf Tournament, Huron 21 Clark County Camp 22 Sanborn County Camp 24 Hand County Camp 28 State Office Closed JUNE 1 3-6 6 12

Yankton County Camp State Leadership Camp, Storm Mt. Women in Ag, Faulkton KELO AM Radio, 10 a.m. Sioux Falls 12 Ag Women’s Day, Brookings 13-16 South Dakota High School Rodeo, Sioux Falls JULY 4 State Office Closed 10 KELO AM Radio, 10 a.m. Sioux Falls 19 Davison County Camp



Aberdeen Aberdeen Bison Bison Britton Brookings Brookings Brookings Buffalo Clark Doland Doland Faulkton Huron Irene Irene Kadoka Lemmon

Darrel Kessler J.R. Johnson Alan Voller Karen Voller Tom Farber Gary Ray Beth Reams Heidi Fields Jim Erk Lon Reidburn Bonnie Wagner Mark Rozell Dawn Melius Blaine Anderson Brendon Hansen Brian Hansen Donna Enders Carrie Derschan

229-3945 725-3003 244-7431 244-7431 448-5150 692-6735 690-3018 881-2830 375-3311 532-3299 635-6511 635-6511 598-6570 352-2130 263-2121 263-3342 837-2144 374-3462

Marion Menno Mitchell Piedmont Pierre Rapid City Rapid City Rapid City Sioux Falls Sisseton Spearfish Sturgis Watertown Webster Webster Winner Yankton

Kevin Albrecht Brendon Hansen Ryan Leischner Ce Faulkner Mefferd Agency Black Hills Agency Kasey Keller Lewis Agency Jeff Nord Erica Steiner Spearfish Agency Scott Sabers Todd Nichols Debbie Baumgarn Larry Baumgarn Jeremy Clay James Murphy

941-0650 387-5555 996-9651 737-0463 224-4123 342-5555 343-4213 342-3585 338-5302 698-7316 642-8870 347-4507 886-9683 345-2640 345-2640 842-1556 664-2121

March final  
March final