South Dakota Farmers, Ranchers & Rural Youth Visit Legislators | TSLN.com

South Dakota Farmers, Ranchers & Rural Youth Visit Legislators

When you're 15 politics can be confusing. South Dakota's Legislature is now more understandable for the South Dakota teens who attended the South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day last week. They joined family farmers, ranchers and rural business owners who also participated in the annual event.

"It's cool to see the process first hand and really understand what happens behind the scenes," says Hannah Sumption, 15 and a student at Frederick Area High School. "I have heard about it on the news, but until I got to sit in on committee meetings and Session today, I didn't really understand how everything worked."

Sumption's friend, Megan Hanson, 14 adds.

"I enjoyed learning about all the history of the Capitol," says the student at Britton/Hecla High School.

“We are a grassroots organization and our Legislators want to hear from the people who the bills impact, not lobbyists

— actual producers. We hear this time and time again when we travel to D.C. for National Farmers Union Fly-In

— it’s true here in South Dakota too.” Karla Hofhenke, South Dakota Farmers Union executive director

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Both girls are actively involved in South Dakota Farmers Union Youth Programming and earned the two-day trip to Pierre – which is the first visit both teens have made to the state's Capitol.

Hanson says she enjoys the opportunities Farmers Union provides her with to explore other areas of the state and meet youth from across the state and learn about topics, like leadership and cooperatives, which are not typically taught in school.

"I've learned a lot about working with others, the cooperative system and made some great friends through Farmers Union," Hanson says.

In addition to participating in the Legislative Day, the youth will stay an extra day to learn more about the legislative process as well as the history of South Dakota's capital city.

"Along with teaching youth about how their state's government works, the Legislative Youth Trip is designed as one of four reward trips youth can earn throughout their high school years," explains Karla Hofhenke, South Dakota Farmers Union Executive Director.

Hofhenke explains that this reward trip coincide with the Farmers Union mission and triangle – Cooperation, Legislation and Education. Their first year youth can attend State Leadership Camp at half price, the second year is the Pierre Legislative trip, the third year is a trip to Minneapolis to learn about Cooperatives, fourth year students can earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Camp in Colorado. The fifth year is their Torchbearer award, the highest honor bestowed upon youth in Farmers Union, Torchbearers earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Convention.

"These trips offer incentive as well as valuable opportunities for students," Hofhenke says.

Family farmers and ranchers visit South Dakota Legislature Today

This annual Farmers Union event draws family farmers, ranchers and rural community leaders to Pierre each year as a way for them to interact one-on-one with Legislators and share their concerns and insights with legislators.

"Our members are the boots on the ground so to speak," said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. "Legislators know it's not family farmers and ranchers job to lobby for policy. They understand these folks took time away from their farms, ranches, businesses – and in the case of the Farmers Union Youth who are here to learn about state policy and the Legislative process – they are missing a few days of school."

The time in Pierre is well worth the trip, Hofhenke says.

"We are a grassroots organizations and our Legislators want to hear from the people who the bills impact, not lobbyists – actual producers. We hear this time and time again when we travel to D.C. for National Farmers Union Fly-In – it's true here in South Dakota too," she explains.

–SDFU