Q&A: Kristi Noem, candidate for governor of South Dakota

Rep. Kristi Noem
Republican Candidate for SD Gov.
South Dakota Represenatative Kristi Noem, Republican candidate for governor.

1. Do you believe the current property tax policy needs changed? If so, how?

A concern I’ve heard from many South Dakotans is with implementation of the productivity system. In some cases, local assessors were not using the tools they had to make sure individuals were being properly taxed. While I previously co-sponsored legislation (with Senator Jim Peterson) to have native grasslands taxed based on actual use, I also believe we need to continue to use existing statutory tools to make the adjustments contemplated by the Legislature.

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?

It’s critical. As most reading this know, I ranched most of my life. That’s experience I’ll bring with me to the governor’s office. From protecting property rights to expanding markets, my administration would be built to develop the state’s agricultural economy and give more young people the opportunity to thrive as ranchers in South Dakota.

One of the first things I’ll tackle is creating a blueprint for agricultural economic development. With an annual economic impact of $25.6 billion, agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry. To build and diversify the sector, I will direct the Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to construct a blueprint that broadens opportunities for existing farms and ranches and helps identify and recruit our next ag-related growth industries.

Additionally, with increasing trade, both foreign and domestic, risk of foot-and-mouth, avian influenza, and many other diseases has greatly increased in recent years. But South Dakota – backed by SDSU’s world-class animal disease research program, including the new laboratory that is currently under construction – is uniquely positioned to improve livestock disease management practices. Working with the university, the Animal Industry Board, the State Veterinarian, and our growing biotech industry, we can mitigate economic and environmental impacts while improving overall herd and flock health.

To read my full proposal, go to

3. Do you believe the brand inspection laws need any changes?

No policy should ever be considered a closed book. We will continue to monitor this issue, working with ranchers and stakeholders to make sure brand inspection laws are being implemented fairly and effectively.

4. Do you support a state COOL law?

In general, I believe consumers want more information about where their food comes from, which is why I’ve long promoted COOL. Whether the South Dakota certified beef program is the most effective vehicle to convey that information is a debate that must occur in the state legislature. As governor, I will be committed to adding value to South Dakota-grown commodities and livestock. There is just no work ethic like a South Dakota work ethic. With agriculture as the foundation, we can leverage that homegrown ambition and add value to every head. If elected, I will direct the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to prioritize value-added agriculture, thoroughly vetting new processing, agricultural biotechnology, and manufacturing opportunities and offering upward mobility to more South Dakotans than ever before.

5. Is there a better fix for the non-meandered water issue? (Particularly for the folks with land under the “section 8” lakes)?

I believe in private property rights. At the same time, I love to hunt, fish, and take advantage of our state’s incredible outdoors opportunities. Many feel this way, which is why flooded private lands is such a complex issue to navigate. As governor, I will continue to monitor the 2017 compromise, which includes working with stakeholders to make sure we properly balance the public’s recreational interests with respect for the constitutionally protected private property rights.

6. How can we help the dairy industry become profitable again?

We need to continue expanding market access. I have been working with U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer for months toward a fairer deal with Canada and Mexico, particularly when it comes to the dairy industry. I was encouraged by the deal struck. More specifically, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement would force Canada to eliminate its “Class 7” program and expand access for U.S. dairy products. As governor, I will continue to leverage the relationships I have within the administration, and with Ambassador Lighthizer in particular, to fight for expanded market access for dairy producers.

7. Are any changes needed as far as ELD?

Yes. The ELD mandate has made it much more difficult to reliably move livestock, commodities, and goods through the state. Time and again, I’ve spoken to South Dakota truckers with deep concerns about the added burden. In December 2017, I co-sponsored legislation that would put a two-year delay on this mandate. This would give additional time for further research into the impact on trucking operations, particularly small companies and those that haul live animals.

Earlier this year, I sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation to request exemptions for small trucking businesses with exemplary safety records, saving these drivers with the tightest profit margins the $500 it costs annually to comply with the ELD mandate.

Moreover, in August, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would reconsider the hours-of-service regulations themselves. This came after a big push from myself and many South Dakota truckers. The public comment period just closed, and I’m hopeful we’ll get clarifications soon.

In short, I believe strongly in evidence-based policymaking, and I have significant concerns about the questions left unanswered regarding the ELD mandate. Until more can be learned about the mandate’s efficacy and practical impact, we need to delay this rule and work toward a better solution.