Growing in Agriculture: It’s Been an Honor
South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture
The old adage that “time flies when you’re having fun” rings especially true as I reflect on my time with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. I can’t believe it’s already been five years since I first walked into the department as the director of agricultural development, serving the last three years as your secretary of agriculture. During that time, we have continued to see growth and change take place in our state’s largest industry.
Soil health, water quality and agriculture’s role in protecting natural resources, continue to take center stage at a regional and national level. I’m proud that South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are at the forefront of efforts to preserve our natural resources while also increasing the quality and quantity of the food they produce. They know that by caring for those resources properly, they are giving future generations the chance to succeed in production agriculture as well.
One of the great ways to increase opportunities for the next generation is by diversifying agricultural operations. Adding livestock or changing a crop rotation to include a niche commodity can help insulate producers from the volatility of the agricultural markets. I am especially proud of the diversity we see in South Dakota today, from poultry, dairy, pigs and cattle to corn, soybeans, wheat and berries. I’m confident that we’ll continue to see opportunities for producers to diversify their operations moving forward.
In my role as secretary, I have had the privilege to get to know many farm and ranch families across the state. Several are in the process, or will be soon, of transitioning the daily operation of the family farm or ranch from one generation to the next. If you haven’t started planning for this transition, I encourage you to start the process sooner rather than later. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, there are a number of professionals that help families work through the questions that can arise and can provide important advice and insight. As you go through the planning process, it’s important to remember that your family and operation are unique. Find the strategy that works best for all involved.
One of the clear highlights as secretary of agriculture has been playing a role in developing the newly launched South Dakota Agricultural Foundation. While this non-profit foundation is completely separate from state government, thanks to the encouragement of Governor Daugaard, I had the pleasure of being a member of the team that worked to make this idea a reality. I am excited to see how the fund will grow and evolve to meet the dynamic and changing needs of agriculture in South Dakota.
As my time as secretary draws to a close, I’m especially grateful to my wife Laura and our children Austin (18), Claire (16), Shane (12) and Kate (10). While this job has been demanding of our family, their support and understanding never wavered. It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime to be your secretary of agriculture. Thank you for allowing me to be a steward of the office.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News