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Delegates listen to the business session at the South Dakota Farm Bureau convention in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)

SD Farm Bureau holds centennial convention

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The South Dakota Farm Bureau held their centennial convention in Sioux Falls, S.D., on November 23-25, wrapping up a year-long celebration for their organization. The meeting featured the traditional focus on agricultural policy but also many special speakers and guests.

Delegates passed various resolutions including one to support the precision agriculture building at South Dakota State University.

"Part of that resolution was to work with the Legislature and the other ag groups to find sources of funding for it," said South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal. He said it will be a tough lift with an additional $30 million needed for construction. Plus, he said there is an unwillingness among Farm Bureau members to dip back into the property tax relief fund after it was used last year to fund the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Lab at SDSU.

Another resolution delegates approved would reclassify conditional use permits for livestock zoning.

"To just lay the regulations down in black and white and make it a permitted use as long as the operation that's proposed meets all those criteria," VanderWal said. The goal is to make the permitting process easier for livestock producers in the state and avoid the continual challenges to these projects.

Other key business items included reducing the backlog of wetland delineations in the state and dealing with dicamba drift, while still preserving technology for farmers.

South Dakota Senator John Thune also provided an update on how tax reform will impact agriculture. He said the Senate is working to protect the industry's interests with their plan. For example, he said while large corporations will no longer be able to deduct interest expenses, family farms will retain that benefit. Plus, he said there are many other important provisions for farmers and ranchers.

"I think they'll benefit from the rate reductions, the accelerated cost recovery in terms of the expensing and other provisions. We've expanded cash accounting," Thune said.

The Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Team teamed up with the Young Farmers and Ranchers for the centennial to make 100 blankets for local hospitals. Women's Leadership Team Chair Cindy Foster also unveiled Visiting Grandpa and Grandma's Farm, a new ag education book they authored.

"All the pictures in this book were taken by our Women's Leadership Team or other Farm Bureau members," Foster said. "We talk about some of the animals that are raised here in South Dakota, some of the crops."

They are targeting children in kindergarten through third grade with the book but have also received positive feedback from adults.

The keynote speaker was former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. The Mt. Vernon, S.D. native grew up on a 2,000-acre crop and livestock farm. He attributes much of his success to growing up on the farm, plus he said it also kept him grounded during his career in the NFL.

The centennial also featured a cooking demonstration with Chef Aaròn Sànchez, who is a judge on The Food Network's Chopped and Chopped Junior. He talked about the importance of farmers to society.

"I just think farmers are essential to the way we eat, not just in restaurant settings, but at home," he said.

Sànchez also promoted food as a way to start a conversation about farming between farmers and consumers.

"The way that we commune is at the kitchen table. It's a way that we slow down, it's a perfect reminder for all of us to connect with one another. And through that, conversation starts happening," he said.

Sànchez said today's consumers are eager to know where their food comes from.

"I think the idea of knowing your farmer and understanding where your ingredients come from is more important than ever," he said.

He stressed that the public needs to support farmers legislatively and with a fair price in the marketplace.

"We forget that there's a lot of space between California and New York and in the middle of this country, it's farm country. And we won't sustain ourselves if we're not taking care of our farmers," Sànchez said.