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SD House matchup features two public servants

PIERRE, S.D.--South Dakota's lone congressional seat has two long-time public servants vying as major party nominees. Four candidates are in the race for the post vacated by Kristi Noem, a Republican who had held the seat since 2010 and is runnin...

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Businessman Dustin “Dusty” Johnson (left) Republican candidate for U.S. House in South Dakota, is running against retired judge Timothy W. Bjorkman, a Democrat, as well as Libertarian and independent candidates. Photo taken Aug. 22, 2018, at Mitchell, S.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Matt Gade)

PIERRE, S.D.-South Dakota's lone congressional seat has two long-time public servants vying as major party nominees.

Four candidates are in the race for the post vacated by Kristi Noem, a Republican who had held the seat since 2010 and is running for a vacant governor seat.

Timothy W. Bjorkman, a retired Canistota, S.D., lawyer and judge, is the state's Democratic nominee. Dustin "Dusty" Johnson, of Mitchell, S.D., is the Republican nominee. Also in the race are George Hendrickson, a Libertarian, and Ron Wieczorek, an independent.

If elected, both Johnson and Bjorkman want a seat on the House Agriculture Committee.

A Public Policy Polling from July 19 to 20 of 641 registered voters showed Johnson leading Bjorkman 43 percent to 33 percent, with 14 percent undecided, but didn't ask about the other candidates. The candidates debate Friday, Oct. 19, at the KELO-TV studio, 501 S. Phillips Ave. in downtown Sioux Falls, at 7 p.m. Central time, 6 p.m. Mountain. They will debate at the City Centre Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls at noon Monday, Oct. 22, in an event sponsored by the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary.

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Rural town law

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Retired circuit court Judge Timothy W. Bjorkman

Bjorkman, 62, practiced law at Bridgewater, S.D., from 1983 and was elected circuit court judge from 2007 until he retired in 2017. He says that in both capacities, he was intimately involved in agricultural matters including estate issues, tax law, divorce, boundary disputes, farm injury, or representing farmers in disputes over bad seed corn. "I fought to save family farms in the farm crisis," of the 1980s, Bjorkman told Agweek.

Bjorkman describes himself as an advocate for rural South Dakota."He is a strong critic of the tariff fight and says "once they get severed, they're very, very difficult to re-establish. We're going to see repercussions all across the Midwest."

According to his campaign website, Bjorkman supports "family producers, not Big Ag and refuses Political Action Committee money. He opposes Nancy Pelosi serving another term as Democratic leader, wants to impose a six-year term limit for the House and 12 years in the Senate.

He's supports President Donald Trump's year-round E15 initiative. He says he thinks Congress should re-establish its role over tariffs, noting soybean losses alone in the state could be $500 million, and indicates there will be repercussions in pork, beef and dairy.

Trade tariffs will cause long-range harm, he said. He likens the administration's tariffs to those established in 1930 that led to a 50 percent decline in international trade and was important in the Great Depression.

Bjorkman tells Agweek he supports an effort that would have 1) capped Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage at 110 percent of projected costs; 2) prohibits farmers with adjusted gross income of $500,000 or more from "being eligible for crop insurance premium subsidies; 3) creates a means test for commodity and conservation assistance; 4) reforms "subsidies for the sugar industry;" increases the cap on the Conservation Reserve Program above the current 25 million acres. 5) restoring Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), which was lifted in 2016. Bjorkman told Agweek that we should be "taking a closer look at the health impacts of of sugar and the wisdom of subsidizing it" to the tune of $1 billion to $2 billion per year.

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Bjorkman says he's concerned the farm bill allows large, wealthy farms access to most farm program payments and allows large chemical companies to thrive. Bjorkman wants to return authority over trade to Congress.

Young regulator

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Businessman and former South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Dustin “Dusty” Johnson

Johnson, 42, of Mitchell, was born in Pierre, S.D., holds a degree in political science from the University of South Dakota, a master's in public administration from the University of Kansas, and worked in Washington, D.C., in the the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a Truman Scholar doing rural development work.

In 2002, he worked for then-Gov. Mike Rounds as a policy advisor. In 2004, he was elected to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, at that time the youngest utilities commissioner in the country. He was re-elected in 2010 but resigned in 2011 to become chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard. In that post, he oversaw the secretary of agriculture, and other several departments, and drew praise from former Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones, who was working to develop livestock opportunities in the state, including those for agribusiness.

Johnson tells Agweek he "favors an all-inclusive ag policy" which means working with large operations and small as South Dakota producers work to feed the world and create prosperity for America.

In 2014, Johnson resigned the governor's staff to become vice president of consulting for Vantage Point Solutions, a telecommunications engineering and consulting firm. "I get to help 400 of our nation's rural telecommunications engineering and consulting firms make good decisions and deploy fiber, allowing them to bring broadband to their rural communities," he said.

He's for strong crop insurance and Livestock Indemnity Programs in the farm bill. He also wants to eliminate soda from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, which account for 80 percent of the 2014 farm bill budget. He favors requiring "ongoing work or training" for SNAP recipients, a concept emphasized by House Republicans in the farm bill.

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Johnson says he also wants to increase the Conservation Reserve Program from 24 million acres to something like 30 million. Johnson said he supports the Soil Health and Income Protection Provision by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., in the Senate version of the farm bill, that allows for shorter-term conservation easement and is more flexible with haying and grazing.

Libertarian, independent

Wieczorek, in his mid-70s, is a purebred Charolais beef bull producer at Mount Vernon, S.D., ran independent congressional races in 1992 and 1994, and governor in 1998. He told Agweek that 25 years of free trade has "destroyed most of the family farmers in this country." Hendrickson, in his mid-40s, in debate answers at Dakotafest, he said he wants flexibility for CRP land and wants to deregulate industrial hemp and legalize medical marijuana.

Mitchell resident and U.S. Congressional Representative candidate Dusty Johnson sits for a photo inside Cornerstone Coffee House and Deli. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Businessman and former South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Dustin “Dusty” Johnson, 42, is the state’s Republican nominee for U.S. House. The election is Nov. 6. Photo taken May 14, 2018, at Mitchell, S.D. (Forum News Service/Mitchell Daily Republic/Matt Gade)

Mitchell resident and U.S. Congressional Representative candidate Dusty Johnson sits for a photo inside Cornerstone Coffee House and Deli. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Businessman and former South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Dustin “Dusty” Johnson, 42, is the state’s Republican nominee for U.S. House. The election is Nov. 6. Photo taken May 14, 2018, at Mitchell, S.D. (Forum News Service/Mitchell Daily Republic/Matt Gade)

Related Topics: KRISTI NOEMDUSTY JOHNSON
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