Planting Seeds for Growth: A Plan to Support Our Family Farmers and Ranchers

Year after year, farmers, ranchers, and rural South Dakotans have had to work harder and harder just to keep from going backwards. As a member of one of those rural communities and a rancher myself, I have seen the challenges firsthand. In my role as a financial professional at a rural bank, I’ve sat at the table with these folks as they’ve made hard financial decisions in the toughest of years.

Agriculture remains the economic backbone of our state. Yet, our ag producers and the rural communities dependent on ag continue to deal with the difficulty for young farmers and ranchers to get into the business, ever-increasing consolidation of farms and ranches, and recently by unnecessary barriers to selling agricultural goods to major markets around the world.

We can and should do more. When agriculture is strong, South Dakota is strong.

-Senator Billie Sutton

Building Markets

South Dakota producers need access to markets. In order to do that, we need to be continually pursuing new market opportunities, not cutting off market access for producers through unnecessary trade barriers like tariffs, which cause farmers and ranchers to bear the brunt of the inevitable retaliation. While we must always be open to negotiating better trade deals with our partners, the current trade war, caused by new tariffs, is doing substantial damage to rural South Dakota.

The imposition of retaliatory tariffs in foreign markets is dramatically driving down the prices of commodities like soybeans, corn, pork, and others. The Department of Ag estimates farm profits will be at a 12-year low this year. Adding insult to injury, for farmers that want to store crops in hopes that prices rebound in the future, steel tariffs are quickly pushing up the cost of building grain bins, along with other pieces of equipment made with steel. We need leaders who will stand up for South Dakota producers and rural communities.

Next Generation Farmers & Ranchers

Sutton is excited about the future of agriculture in South Dakota, and knows many men and women of his generation want to be part of that future. Those he knows are savvy, business-minded folks who want to preserve our natural resources for the next generation, be active in their rural communities and raise their families on the land. State government — with SDSU Extension,  our tech schools and other universities—must work harder than ever to provide the skills and expertise needed to survive in agriculture today. That includes innovating within state programs designed to help get young farmers and ranchers onto the land, building apprenticeship programs, as well as doing more to connect young farmers and ranchers to federal resources. Farmers young and old also deserve a governor who sees the importance of rural economic development, so our small towns have opportunities for the whole family. I will work to create opportunities on and off the farm in all 66 counties.

Promoting South Dakota’s Product

South Dakotans should have information to make informed decisions about the origin of their food. Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) allows customers to support local farm and ranch families, and ensure they are purchasing wholesome, safe food raised in the United States. South Dakota’s rural economy is determined by the success of our farms and ranches and marketing our beef is key to that success. Labeling our products, whether through country of origin labeling or a South Dakota certified label are all exciting opportunities to support our local beef producers. We all know South Dakota beef is as healthy and tasty as anything in the world, and Sutton will work to find more ways to promote our home-grown product. Sutton believes Country of Origin Labeling is one option to help customers know where their beef comes from. Similarly, a South Dakota Certified label for marketing purposes has real potential to highlight our beef.

Value-Added Ag for a Stronger Economy

Whether involving specialty crops, biotechnology, food processing, or other innovations, expanding value-added ag will be an important part of growing South Dakota’s rural economy and helping producers diversify and remain viable. We must be intentional in pursuing new opportunities, much like recent efforts to grow small meat processing facilities and dairy production.There are endless opportunities to build new businesses, create quality jobs, and keep our rural communities thriving if we listen and support the great ideas from the entrepreneurs in our state. We can expand our recruitment and incentive efforts to attract even more value-added ag, and diversify our agricultural businesses.

Preserving Habitat for Future Generations

Our long tradition of hunting and fishing in South Dakota has been an important part of life for generations. It’s also a big draw for visitors to our state, helping support business in many rural areas. South Dakota is nationally famous for our hunting and fishing, but there’s more to our reputation than just the game and fish population. Ours is a state where sportsmen can still find access to wild game in wild places without paying a fortune. To keep our heritage alive, we must work to  preserve habitat for waterfowl, pheasants, and other wild game. Billie was born, raised, and lives in the heart of South Dakota pheasant country. His family has had a hunting operation for generations, and he has represented folks operating dozens of hunting enterprises in his legislative district that spans much of the area that makes South Dakota the "Pheasant Capital of the World." Sutton has an open and ongoing dialogue with hunting operators, landowners, and sportsmen and women about how to improve the pheasant population and protect the strong tradition of hunting in South Dakota. As governor, Sutton will address the challenges presented by Mother Nature, proper habitat, and predator control, and he will continue to listen to the folks most knowledgeable about the issue in pursuing the best approach to ensure this South Dakota tradition remains strong for generations to come.

Fueling South Dakota

Ethanol is a good example of how a South Dakota governor and a farm-friendly legislature can impact economic development. As a state senator, Sutton has always supported efforts to encourage more ethanol use. In these difficult days on the farm, it’s more important than ever that we look for ways to add value to our farm commodities. Ethanol does that several times over. It has had a major impact on corn prices. Hundreds of South Dakotans work in our 15 plants and some analysts suggest ethanol accounts for $2 billion in our economy. As your governor, Sutton will fuel the state fleet with E30 and work to install blender pumps across South Dakota. He’ll work with federal agencies to advance the use of E-30 across the nation and continue to collaborate with our farm and ranch leaders to look for ways to improve commodity prices.

Property Tax Relief

Tax policy shouldn’t dictate farmers' and ranchers' plans for their land. The current system of taxation on ag land is driving landowners to break up native grasslands and part with their vision for their own property because it’s being taxed based on “highest and best use” and rather than the “actual use.” The Legislature has studied the issue for years and has failed to enact meaningful changes to give landowners relief from annual, steep increases. Sutton believes it’s time to act. It falls upon all of us to promote a fair and equitable tax system; taxation based on actual use would do a lot to achieve that goal and would help alleviate some of the costs of doing business for our state’s landowners.