Walt Bones: Agriculture is South Dakota’s economic driver | TSLN.com

Walt Bones: Agriculture is South Dakota’s economic driver

Agriculture is South Dakota’s number-one industry, generating nearly $21 billion in annual economic activity and employing over 143,000 South Dakotans. In order to advance and enhance this economic driver, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) hosted the second annual Governor’s Ag Development Summit. This year’s event was held on June 28-29, 2011 in Sioux Falls, SD at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

Day one featured the Key Leader’s Ag Roundtable discussion, with industry leaders from commodity and agriculture organizations represented at the discussion. The goal of this roundtable was to define and create a unified message for agriculture to present to Governor Daugaard.

The second day opened with a welcome address from Walt Bones, who was introduced by Master of Ceremonies, Dusty Johnson, chief of staff for Governor Daugaard.

“Welcome to the Governor’s Ag Development Summit,” opened Bones, who was appointed SDDA Secretary and began his term on Jan. 8, 2011. “This summit brings together agriculture and business leaders from across the state to help us chart a plan for the future of the industry, and our goal for the day is to highlight potential areas of growth and economic development in our state.”

Bones is no stranger to agriculture. He currently farms in a family partnership on his great-grandfather’s homestead near Parker, SD. His family raises cattle, runs a custom cattle-feeding business, operates a dairy, and raises corn, soybeans and wheat.

“As we move forward with the discussions, we need to remember that the agriculture of the future is not the agriculture of the past,” said Bones. “Things will not look the way they did 100 years ago, and we have to focus on what we can do better moving into the future.”

Topics covered through the event included panel discussions on agriculture banking, rural health, industrial agriculture and the future of agriculture development. The lunch keynote was presented by U.S. House of Representative Kristi Noem, and the event concluded with the 2011 Governor’s Agriculture Banquet, featuring a presentation by Lt. Governor Matt Michels.

The Governor’s Ag Development Summit is made possible through sponsor support from Avera Health, Sanford Health, Farm Credit Services of America, Dacotah Bank, First Dakota National Bank, CHS, Pioneer, Monsanto, South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association, Pfizer Animal Health, Bayer CropScience and Raven Industries.

“There are a few statistics about our state that I think are worth noting,” added Bones. “One in six people in the state of South Dakota are directly involved in production agriculture. What’s more, one in four people in South Dakota are active in hunting and fishing activities. And, 100 percent of people in South Dakota and around the world eat and need food. It goes back to those of us in agriculture to feed the world.”

Feeding a growing world in the future will be no small task. By 2050, estimates show the world will have 2.6 billion more mouths to feed, but Bones said he is confident that South Dakota farmers and ranchers will play a key role in getting the job done.

There are 46,000 producers in South Dakota living on 31,500 farms, and each year, one South Dakota producer raises enough food to feed 155 people in the U.S. and abroad.

Bones’ welcome address set the stage for the day’s discussions, with the common thread being that innovation, research, technology and development will be key drivers for producer success. A secondary theme focusing on the importance of connecting with consumers through a “field to market” approach, introducing producers to their main customers, will be a larger priority in the years to come.

The event brought together members of the agriculture community together with bankers, health care providers and industrial representatives to better work together to stay ahead of rapidly changing technology and market trends. Look for upcoming articles summarizing panel discussions on rural health, agriculture banking and industrial technology.


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