South Dakota legislature to talk Brand Board changes
South Dakota District 27 Representative Liz May, of Kyle, South Dakota, is sponsoring a bill in to set up an election process for the selection of the members of the state Brand Board. Currently the members are appointed by the governor.
Rep. May, a rancher and grocery store owner, said the bill is patterned after the South Dakota Corngrowers election setup.
“This bill would allow cattle producers to elect their brand board members,” she said. As the bill reads, the candidates would be required to live within the livestock ownership inspection area, which is currently the western counties of the state, although counties contiguous to the brand inspection area may petition to be added to the brand inspection area.
“We’ve got to get people in who are elected by the producers. Then they can be accountable to the producers,” she said.
May said it’s important to have geographically diverse representation on the board. “What happens in the northwest corner of the state is different than in the southwest corner. What happens in the Black Hills might be a lot different than along the Missouri River. We have a lot of different areas we need to consider,” she said.
May points out that the Reservations also need representation, which could hopefully be done with an at-large candidate, she said. “We need our Indian producers to be represented, too. Agriculture is the number one industry, in fact it’s the only industry on our reservations. We cannot allow that to be threatened,” she said. “Cattle theft is a prime example of how it’s being threatened.”
Representative May said she takes a lot of calls from constituents who are frustrated with the current Brand Board situation.
“People are having trouble getting inspectors, and it’s not just in my area,” she said.
May said this is not an attack on the current members, but rather an effort to increase transparency and accountability.
State Representative Rocky Blare, Winner, who serves district 21, is also in favor of the bill.
“We have had a lot of issues affecting the brand program. We’ve been looking at solving them,” he said.
This bill may be a step in the right direction, he said.
“This is going to be one step. I think it’s going to be a process. If we can get this kind of representation, maybe we can tackle issues more transparently,” he said.
“We want to make sure the integrity of the board is there.”
Blare said he believes the brand inspection program needs more inspectors, and he has heard complaints from current inspectors over changes in the payment rules that reduces their ability to earn income.
He worries that the few remaining inspectors are being overwhelmed. “We need to encourage the ones we have and encourage good inspectors to come and help,” he said.
Blare has also heard concerns about the long wait producers experience in being able to register a brand with the state.
May and Blare agree that a strong brand inspection program is crucial to the success of the state’s cattle industry.
“With the number of cattle thefts we’ve had in the last two years especially, I think it’s something we have to focus on,” said May.
“I want there to be confidence in the program. In order to do that, we need to get more producers involved,” she said.
The state Brand Board helps carry out brand laws including a brand inspection program, brand recording, and investigation of potential brand law violations such as cattle theft.
State law requires that cattle, horses or mules who change ownership or leave the brand inspection area must be inspected. The purpose for the inspection is to determine ownership, and to identify strays. The program is also charged with finding the proper owner of strayed livestock and finding missing livestock, so that livestock owners can be properly paid.