DAUGAARD: The perseverance of our largest industry
Last year was another tough year for agriculture. After seeing a lack of moisture in the spring, we declared a statewide emergency in June. The drought persisted throughout the summer, and even today, as I write this, over 90 percent of the ground in the state is abnormally dry with almost 60 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought.
The drought conditions have exacerbated the impact farmers and ranchers were already feeling from low prices over the last few years, making 2017 a near low in terms of farm income. Our economists anticipate some marginal improvement this year if normal production levels return, but this will depend on the weather and federal trade policy.Even though we don't know what this year will bring, there is still reason to be hopeful.
During the good times our farmers and ranchers invested in themselves. Farmers adopted new technologies and upgraded their equipment, added grain storage, and other new facilities while our ranchers also invested in new equipment, fencing and corrals, along with better genetics. Those investments have positioned them to seize opportunities when times are good again.
Even in times like these, young people are still finding a way to get back to the family farm. I recently heard a story about a young man named Greg who found a way to come back home to Hutchinson County and work with his dad on the farm. Greg knew he would need to supplement his income, so he built a hog finishing facility. The facility provides a guaranteed revenue stream and the manure has benefited the soil health and fertility of their land — which means increased yields and profit for the farm. Greg says he doesn't always accept things as they are. He challenges the norm, but also knows his costs and where the biggest risks are.
We can be encouraged by Greg's story and the stories of others like him. They're a testament of the adaptiveness and determination of South Dakota's farmers and ranchers, and a sign of the industry's promising future.
Agriculture is our largest industry and it's been that way since statehood. It's an industry peopled with generations of resilient individuals who gave their all working the land — combining until dark, checking for calves at two in the morning, getting up before dawn to milk the cows or feed the hogs, and moving livestock in subzero temperatures. Through hard work and determination, agriculture grew to what it is today. And that's how we'll make it through the next year and the years to come.
Editor's note: Dennis Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota.