About DRA – strength in community organizing

It’s always good to check in and remind folks why we do what we do – so without further ado, here’s a great overview of Dakota Rural Action.

From Board Chair Paul Seamans and Black Hills Chapter Secretary Gena Parkhurst:

The past few years has seen Dakota Rural Action garnering a higher profile across the entire state. With this increased awareness of our presence comes the question of who is DRA, and what do we stand for? It might help to know why we came into being.

Over 26 years ago DRA was started in the rural areas of eastern South Dakota in response to the 1980’s farm crisis. The cause of the crisis was drastically lower commodity prices along with dramatically higher interest rates (interest went from 7% to over 20% in very short order). From our modest start DRA has grown to over 500 memberships in six chapters across the state, with a main office in Brookings and a West River office in Rapid City.

Today, DRA continues to work on issues important to farmers and ranchers but we have become so much more. We work extensively on the many issues associated with local foods and we have had great success in our beginning farmer program. We have a member committee involved in promoting renewable energy and other member groups promoting urban chickens and still others working on revising the states raw milk laws.

Of major concern to our members is the protection of our environment. The protection of our natural resources is very important to us with the protection of our water being the most important. DRA is allied with the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance to protect our water from uranium mining in the Black Hills and we have allied with our native friends and neighbors in our quest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.  DRA has no history of working on issues of a social nature. DRA’s membership hasn’t expressed the desire, nor does it have the resources, to address most social issues. DRA feels these issues are best left to individual members to resolve according to their own conscience.

DRA is a membership driven group…meaning the issues we work on are chosen by members. We use the consensus model, to achieve common ground. The consensus model creates strength by unifiying members who then drive our work.

DRA empowers members to get involved with government. DRA employs an organizer who serves as a part-time lobbyist in Pierre during the legislative session. Her role is to work with members to get them to feel comfortable when speaking with legislators directly, and to keep members informed of happenings in Pierre.

DRA’s empowerment of members extends far outside of the group: several membersare running for state and local elected office. Many members have had success when getting involved with community issues.

In spite of the predominance of bad news in the headlines, Dakota Rural Action empowers people who care to make a difference!

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