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Family Farmers & Ranchers in Pierre to Advocate

HURON, S.D. – Family farmers and ranchers from across the state arrived in Pierre today, February 28, to advocate for policy to strengthen agriculture and rural communities during South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Legislative Day 2023.

“Fewer legislators today engage in agriculture, than in the past, so it is important that they are able to connect with the family farmers and ranchers who do work, day in and day out to keep our state’s number one industry thriving,” explained Doug Sombke, SDFU President and Conde crop and cattle farmer.

During Legislative Day, Farmers Union members sit in on committee meetings and House and Senate sessions. But the best opportunity they have to discuss issues is during a luncheon for legislators hosted by South Dakota Farmers Union in the Capitol Rotunda.

“There’s just something about sharing a meal that allows everyone to relax and visit comfortably with legislators about the challenges and opportunities they see on their farms, ranches and rural communities,” explained Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

Freeman farmer and musician, Michelle Friesen agreed. “Food and fellowship go hand-in-hand.”

Although Friesen and her husband, Mike Miller are busy, they made time for Farmers Union Legislative Day because of the opportunity to have conversations with state policy makers. “I feel like this is a good opportunity for legislators to put a face and name to farmers and for us to put a face and name to the legislators developing policy.”

As he enjoyed the lunch sponsored by Farmers Union and made by Polo farmer, Cheryl Schaefers, Colome farmer, Joel Keierleber said he valued the opportunity to visit with Sioux Falls 15 Representative, Linda Duba.

“I want to impress on policy makers the importance of focusing on issues that impact farm families and rural communities, like childcare and ways to address our current labor shortage,” said Keierleber, who has been attending Farmers Union Legislative Day for decades. Duba added that she appreciated the opportunity to meet with family farmers and ranchers today.

“I’m a city girl. This is learning 101. Having farmers here today gives us as legislators a chance to hear from people who are at the ground level of what is really happening,” Duba said.

Oren Lesmeister, District 28-A Legislator and Parade rancher added.

“Sure, sending e-mails to a legislator is one way to communicate your thoughts on specific policy, but nothing beats a face-to-face conversation,” Lesmeister explained. “Conversations are much more memorable and do carry weight.”

South Dakota Farmers Union is the state’s largest agriculture organization. The grassroots policy Farmers Union members advocate for is established by members each year during their state convention.

In addition to meeting with legislators in Pierre, members travel to Washington, D.C. each fall to meet with national policy makers.

To learn more about SDFU policy and how the organization works to support family farmers, ranchers and rural communities, visit www.sdfu.org.


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