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South Dakota Delegates take Grassroots Policy to NFU Convention

Family farmers and ranchers from across South Dakota are in Scottsdale, Arizona, advocating for policy supporting agriculture and rural communities during the 122nd National Farmers Union (NFU) Convention held March 10-12.

“These members care about policy because grassroots policy, voted on by farmers and ranchers, is what guides our organization’s lobbying efforts in South Dakota and Washington, D.C.,” said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union and a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

Lobbying on behalf of policy put in place by family farmers and ranchers does make an impact, said NFU Vice President and Aberdeen farmer Jeff Kippley. “It speaks to our credibility as an organization because we are not controlled by any special interest groups,” Kippley said. “We are made up of more than 200,000 farmers and ranchers from across the U.S. These farmers and ranchers are the ones who set policy we can put into action.”

Kippley was elected during the 2022 NFU Convention and serves alongside West Virginia farmer and NFU President Rob Larew. During this convention, Kippley is running unopposed for a second term.

“The team of farmers leading our organization right now do an excellent job advocating for us because they understand the issues facing family farmers and ranchers because they are farmers. These issues impact them and their farms too,” said Sombke, who also serves as NFU Treasurer.

Advocating for grassroots policy

During the NFU Policy meeting, South Dakota’s delegates will support or defend policy as it comes before the delegates.

“It is very interesting to hear what farmers from other areas of the country are interested in,” said Jim Wahle, a Salem farmer and one of 14 delegates elected during the 2023 SDFU State Convention. “The policy we vote on is so important because it gives the organization direction today and into the future.”

Among the policy South Dakota delegates are prepared to discuss are:

• Opposing anti-competitive practices in livestock markets

• Property rights

• Government oversight of hazardous materials transported through pipelines

“Agriculture is a diverse industry with many different interests. Because only farmers or ranchers can serve as Farmers Union delegates, policymakers know the policy put forth by Farmers Union is developed by farmers and ranchers,” Wahle said.

Wahle has served as a delegate in the past. In 2020 and 2021, he served on the National Policy Committee. He said he is excited to be serving as a delegate alongside several young South Dakota producers. Among them is Mitchell farmer Tonner Bowman, 27.

“I feel privileged that I was elected to help shape the policy of Farmers Union. I appreciate this opportunity to tell our story and help the farmers around us who are facing the same challenges we are,” explained Bowman. In addition to farming, Bowman also works as an agronomist for Pivot Bio.

The other South Dakota Farmers Union delegates Wahle and Bowman are serving with are: Jeff Kippley, Aberdeen; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Rob Lee, De Smet; Lance Perrion, Ipswich; Rachel Kippley, Aberdeen; Tammy Basel, Union Center; Gerri Eide, Gettysburg; Amber Kolousek, Wessington Springs; Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Brenda Reis, Reliance; David Reis, Reliance and Mary Ellen Cammack, Union Center.

To keep up with delegates during the 2024 NFU Convention, visit www.sdfu.org and follow South Dakota Farmers Union on Facebook and Instagram.

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