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Family Farmers & Ranchers Advocate in Pierre for Landowner Rights & More

Today, February 13, family farmers and ranchers from across the state traveled to Pierre to advocate for landowner rights and other policy that supports the individuals and families who make up South Dakota’s No. 1 industry of agriculture. February 13 is South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day.

“Legislative Day provides legislators with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with South Dakota farmers and ranchers to learn how the policy they put in place during 2024 legislative session will impact farmers, ranchers, their families and their communities,” said Doug Sombke, fourth-generation Conde farmer and President of South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU).

During the organizations State Convention, members voted on policy and highlighted several top priority issues to focus on during the 2024 legislative session. Among these priority issues are landowner rights, fair markets and childcare.

“We are asking our state policymakers to be more clear when it comes to eminent domain rights,” Sombke said. “Current laws allow anyone with a pending permit to go onto land that does not belong to them and survey. We ask for legislation to change laws to protect property rights. A permit needs to be approved before land can be surveyed by an outside interest.”

Eminent domain for private gain is an important issue for Colome farmers Joel and Audrey Keierleber.


“Who pays the taxes? The landowner. Why should someone else be able to make money from land they do not own and do not pay taxes on,” asked Joel Keierleber.

Each winter, the Keierlebers set aside a day to participate in Farmers Union Legislative Day.

“This is the No. 1 day when legislators will listen to farmers,” Keierleber said. “It seems unless we go to Pierre, legislators do not pay much attention to us. I have even made time for local cracker barrels and it seemed I was not listened to until I showed up in Pierre with a large group of farmers. A group draws more attention. Numbers do matter.”

SDFU Lobbyist Mitch Richter agrees with Keierleber. “It is always important for our legislators to hear from the people who are boots on the ground, getting their hands dirty raising crops and livestock,” Richter said. “Legislators need to hear from the people who are impacted by policy they pass.”

Richter added that Legislative Day allows farmers and ranchers to share how specific challenges impact them and it gives legislators the opportunity to ask them questions.

“Overall, Farmers Union members showing up in Pierre shows the legislators that you are interested, and you are following what they are doing in Pierre,” Richter said. “It is important to hold our legislators accountable.”

Throughout the day, members attended legislative hearings and met with legislators for lunch and conversation at noon in the Rotunda.

“There is just something about getting to sit down with someone to share a meal that invites conversation,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of SDFU. “This lunch gives farmers and ranchers an opportunity to talk about what is important with them and ask for legislation they need to make positive change.”

To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union advocates on behalf of family farmers and ranchers in Pierre and Washington, D.C., visit

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