Q&A: Billie Sutton, candidate for governor of South Dakota
Democrat Candidate for SD Gov.
1. Do you believe the current property tax policy needs changed? If so, how?
Tax policy should not dictate farmers’ and ranchers’ plans for their land. The current system of taxation on ag land is influencing landowners to break up native grasslands and abandon their vision for their own property because it’s being taxed based on “highest and best use” of the land, rather than its “actual use.” While the legislature has studied the issue for years, it has failed to enact changes that would provide landowners with relief from the large annual increases. As governor, I will promote tax relief through a tax system based on actual use — a change that would help alleviate some of the costs that South Dakota landowners incur for doing business.
2. How important is the cattle industry to the economy of the state and what policies do you plan to implement that will put money in the pockets of cattle producers?
As a rancher myself, I know that agriculture and our cattle industry is the economic backbone of South Dakota. It’s not just important to the state economy, it’s critical. When ag is strong, South Dakota is strong. As governor, I will promote and implement policies that put money in the pockets of cattle producers like promoting South Dakota’s beef through country-of-origin-labeling, expanding value-added ag opportunities, preserving our state’s natural resources, and property tax relief.
3 Do you believe the brand inspection laws need any changes?
We’ve made steady improvement in recent years to build better communication and effectiveness of the Brand Inspection program. The Brand Inspection Program needs to continue working on training inspectors and improving communications with livestock owners to ensure that the program works for them. The biggest frustration that I hear from producers today is the lack of investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of brand law violators. That won’t require a change in the law, but will require the next governor to hold the brand board accountable for running the program and support them in hiring qualified investigators.
4. Do you support a state COOL law?
I do support country-of-origin-labeling (COOL). South Dakotans should have access to information that allows us to make informed, deliberate decisions about where our food was raised. COOL allows us to support local farms, ranches, and their family businesses, and ensures our food is safe and produced here in the United States. COOL is one option to help South Dakotans know where our food, including our beef, comes from. This is a part of my “Planting Seeds for Growth,” plan to support our family farmers and ranchers.
5. Is there a better fix for the non-meandered water issue? (Particularly for the folks with land under the “section 8” lakes)?
Obviously this has been a difficult and contentious issue, both legally and for many of our residents and small businesses. I continue to support a compromise on the issue — one that protects the rights of the private property owners while also preserving the right of our sportsmen to hunt and fish on public bodies of water. As shown by my vote this past spring on SB 24, I think we need to give the current system a chance to show us what is working and what needs to be fixed. As Governor, I will listen and evaluate the current law from the perspective of all South Dakotans. I will work with the legislature to find a permanent solution that protects landowners and the public and treats both interests fairly.
6. How can we help the dairy industry become profitable again?
The dairy industry growth Governor Daugaard has shepherded in during his time in office should be commended and continued. We need to be good neighbors while recruiting new dairies, continue expanding milk processing infrastructure, expand livestock development, and continue other state improvements that make South Dakota an attractive place for business and family and keep us competitive in the region.
7. Are any changes needed as far as The Electronic Logging Device ELD rules for truckeres?
As Governor, I will advocate to increase flexibility for South Dakota truck drivers and increase safety on our roads and highways. I believe there are common-sense solutions that will provide relief for trucking operations while ensuring there is no added risks on the road. I think it is important for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to listen to South Dakotans and recognize the complexity of the trucking industry. If we can ensure safety, flexible and common sense, ELD rules will positively impact South Dakota’s economy.