Join the conversation during the S.D. Farmers Union Convention |

Join the conversation during the S.D. Farmers Union Convention

HURON, S.D. – We may not have much control over the current markets. But, members of South Dakota Farmers Union, do have a say in policy development that can impact future markets, says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director as she invites members and supporters alike to join the conversation during the 2018 State S.D. Farmers Union Convention held in Pierre Nov. 29-30.

“We’re a grassroots organization, so just like our policy, our convention agenda is also member-driven. We spend a lot of time listening to our members to help determine topics that will be discussed and who will be invited to present,” explains Hofhenke.

Timely topics highlighted during convention include: truth in labeling, climate change’s impact on rural America’s economy, mental health issues among agriculture producers and the success story of Glacial Lake’s Energy Cooperative E30 Challenge program.

Like so many issues this year, the USDA’s discussion on whether or not to label lab-cultured tissue as “meat” directly impacts many South Dakota producers.

“We’re a grassroots organization, so just like our policy, our convention agenda is also member-driven. We spend a lot of time listening to our members to help determine topics that will be discussed and who will be invited to present.” Karla Hofhenke, SDFU executive director

In October, Hofhenke traveled to D.C. to testify on behalf of SDFU members, that the organization does not support foods produced using animal cell culture technology as being labeled “meat.”

Hofhenke was joined by Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator, and SDFU members Brett Kenzy, a cattle producer from Gregory, and Eric Sumption, a cattle producer from Frederick.

When livestock producers make time to lobby on behalf of their industry it is noticed, says Jess Peterson, Senior Policy Adviser for U.S. Cattlemen’s and convention presenter.

“The grassroots message makes a difference when we are battling confusion,” explains Peterson, who is also a Montana cattle rancher.

His SDFU convention talk will focus on the battle over fake meat and truth and clarity at the retail counter. He will also discuss price discovery and fundamentals of the marketplace.

“South Dakota is playing a key role in an emerging trend that we need to see more of when it comes to fat cattle and marketing of fat cattle,” says Peterson of a topic he will cover in more depth during his convention presentation.

Market opportunities will take center stage during Chris Clayton’s talk. The Ag Policy Editor for DTN/The Progressive Farmer, will visit about climate change and its impact on economic development opportunities in rural America – opportunities like ethanol and wind energy.

“In many ways, rural America is the innovative center for renewable energy. We really don’t make that connection between renewable energy and climate change as much as we should,” Clayton says. “It doesn’t make sense to be a strong advocate for ethanol if you don’t think anything should be done for climate change. The whole driver for ethanol is to have a fuel that has lower emissions than petroleum-based fuels.”

Clayton began delving into this topic in 2008, when fake news over climate change policy hit rural America. His research eventually led him to write the e-book, Elephant in the Corn Field.

“Remember, this was during the Great Recession, and in states like South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, we didn’t have a recession because our agriculture commodities were suddenly taking off and prices were going up and land values were going up – because of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS),” Clayton explains. “There are still opportunities for farmers to make money using conservation practices.”

Along with climate change and renewable energy opportunities, Clayton will also discuss fake news with convention-goers.

Ethanol also comes up in Jim Seurer’s presentation that focuses on building local support for consumption of Premium E30. The CEO of Glacial Lakes Energy will share how his cooperative overcame myths and built consumer trust to drive sales of Premium E30 up 600 percent in Watertown and Aberdeen through a clever consumer education campaign they dubbed the E30 Challenge.

“We anticipated where the hurdles were and addressed those issues,” Seurer says.

He explains that Glacial Lakes Energy knew in order for drivers to fuel up with Premium E30, they needed consumers to change their fueling habits and dispel any myths about Premium E30. So, the cooperative began by educating those in the know – auto technicians and car dealership employees by launching an aggressive educational initiative.

“We are eager to see the success we’ve seen in Watertown and Aberdeen duplicated. We have no secrets,” Seurer says.

Policy development and elections

Along with policy discussion, during convention, board member elections will also take place for national convention delegates and state board representatives from districts 1, 3, 5 and 7.

To learn more and to register, visit

–South Dakota Farmers Union

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