HURON, S.D. – Packer Accountability is among the topics experts from across the state and nation will discuss during the 2022 South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) State Convention held in Huron December 15 and 16 at the Crossroads Hotel and Convention Center, Huron (100 4th Street SW., Huron).
“We are here to fight for family farmers and ranchers,” said Doug Sombke, SDFU President and Conde crop and cattle producer. “Holding meat packers accountable to prevent price fixing is a farmer and rancher issue and it’s also a consumer issue.”
Sombke explained competition is essential to a sustainable and affordable food supply.
“Keeping families on the land raising crops and livestock – not multi-national corporations – is important. And right now, even though prices this harvest are good, due to consolidation of multi-national corporations, expenses are also high, so it’s tough to turn a profit,” Sombke said.
For nearly a century, laws have been on the books to prevent market manipulation. Farmers Union state and national policy encourages officials to enforce these laws.
SDFU invited South Dakota’s Attorney General Marty Jackley to visit about the work the State’s Attorney General’s office is doing to enforce laws locally.
“I’ve joined with likeminded Attorney Generals to hold packers accountable by encouraging the Department of Justice to enforce laws and keep the industry competitive, fair and transparent,” Jackley said.
During convention, Jackley will sit down for a conversation with members about this topic and others relevant to South Dakota’s agricultural producers.
“This convention presents an opportunity for me to listen to what is important to our ag leaders and discuss potential solutions,” Jackley said.
Update from DOJ Anti-Trust Division
In September, South Dakota cattle producers had the opportunity to meet with Department of Justice officials during the 2022 National Farmers Union D.C. Fly-In.
“They were interested in first-hand accounts of price fixing cattle producers shared and said they should not have allowed corporate consolidation like they have,” Sombke said. “We are eager to hear their next steps.”
To provide an update, SDFU invited Michael Kades, deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division to serve as one of the experts on the Ag Issues panel.
Other panelists include Scott Blublaugh, President of American Farmers & Ranchers of Oklahoma and Oren Lesmeister, Parade rancher and District 28-A legislator.
The right to repair will also be a topic of discussion during the Ag Issues panel. Right to repair focuses on establishing laws to ensure that equipment manufacturers share software necessary to repair ag machinery with equipment owners.
Grassroots Policy Established
Holding packers accountable and right to repair are examples of challenges Farmers Union members voted to address through grassroots policy. Members vote on policy and leadership during the State Convention Policy meeting explains Policy Committee chair Hank Wonnenberg.
“Timing-wise, it’s critical to attend convention and participate in policy discussions because there is a new farm bill underway. Because of this, there are opportunities for us to put policy in place to impact what goes into this next farm bill,” explained Wonnenberg, who farms near Dallas with his wife Melissa and works as a real estate appraiser at a local bank. “Right now, there are revitalized efforts for reinstating MCOOL (Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling) and for strengthening enforcement of antitrust legislation. The administration’s emphasis on climate and conservation has opened the door to new opportunities for renewable fuels, such as ethanol and renewable diesel, and for possible new revenue streams from additional conservation programs and carbon credits. But, we need to advocate for what we want and need. This is our opportunity. Convention provides us with a place to talk through all of these topics, come together and do everything we can to support policy that supports farmers.”
Member-driven policy guides the organization’s lobbying efforts in Pierre and D.C.
“I take direction from the policy our members vote on,” Sombke said. “This is truly an organization where family farmers and ranchers have a voice.”
In addition to speakers, expert panelists and policy development, during convention, SDFU members will have an opportunity to reconnect, support rural youth and enjoy an evening of entertainment during the annual fundraising event, Night on the Prairie.
Register and you’re entered to win
All registered members, 18 and older who attend convention will be entered to win a Polaris Sportsman 570 four-wheeler or Pro 780 Traeger grill or an iPad.
To register and view a complete agenda and learn more about the 2022 South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention, visit www.sdfu.org.