Thoughts on the Rally and CAFOs in South Dakota

by Tony Helland

The early morning this past Saturday offered an invigorating chill to our group gathered to rally for safety of South Dakota’s land, water, people. We gathered next to the frozen Big Sioux River at the River Greenway amphitheater in Sioux Falls. It really was a poignant setting for a discussion on the detrimental effects of HB 1173, HB 1201, and SB 127. The Sioux River is bearing some of industrial agriculture’s more damaging effects, in part from runoff upstream. Should any of this legislation make it past the governor’s desk, I’m sure the river won’t be feeling any better. We donned our signs, continued some discussion, and made our way to the first legislative coffee of the 2015 session for the Sioux Falls area. We were unfortunately asked to leave our signs in the hallway. I guess the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce didn’t think too highly of our advertised arithmetic (turd + water = croaked smiley face man).

The format for these legislative coffees in Sioux Falls is great for letting the lawmakers speak on the process and thinking behind specific bills of interest, but falls short of fostering real citizen input and questioning of the legislators. One has to write their questions on small cards and have them sorted and read by the moderator. Our group of rally-makers wrote a number of questions and concerns around all three of the bills opposed by DRA. Unfortunately, when brought up for answers and discussion, these questions and concerns were quickly lumped together and offered merely as an open topic. This gave proponent legislators the opportunity to speak to their talking points. I would have loved to have had the moderator really address the concerns we brought with us.

None the less I’d like to recap some of the points made.

Rep. Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) made it clear that he is a general supporter of these kinds of bills as they offer economic development. The connection was made between this economic development and a means of broadening the tax base. It’s really unfortunate that sponsors of this legislation claim that the bills’ opponents are against economic development. That’s simply not the case. Economic development that comes at the cost of a local area’s land and water is purely short term, unsustainable. The degrading effects of large-scale feeding operation may actually hinder an areas long term viability.

How about those ‘not-in-my-backyard’ comments? Both Rep. Haggar and Rep. Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) posited that these CAFO’s are something that everyone wants, just not next to them. Woah, slow that up. The waste and subsequent polluting effects of large CAFO’s don’t just affect those nearby neighbors – though they definitely bear the brunt of lower air and water quality. The effects of CAFO’s are something shared by an entire area whether downstream or downwind.

What I found most stunning were the statements made by Rep. Westra (R-13/Sioux Falls). When speaking on the merits of HB 1173, Westra made the claim that South Dakota has a difficult time with change. The issue at hand to him deals with citizens using the appeals process to hinder and delay a land use that has already been approved. If the change South Dakota needs is an increase in large-scale confinement operations – something Rep. Haugaard feels we have a “dramatic shortage” of – the introduction of corporate farming and the curtailing of public input offered by these bills will get us there. Reality tells us, though, that the environmental impacts and chilling effects on citizen concerns are a cost too great.

Rep. Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) offered some good comments about HB 1173. Due to his past efforts in fighting against a large hog operation near a family home he states that he has “always sided with slowing these things down.” He continued to offer his support to opponents by stating that the appeals brought by citizens of land use permits are not frivolous. Indeed!

HB 1173 will be taken up in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday 2/9. SB 127 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. HB 1201 has been referred to the House Committee on Local Government.

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  1. […] via Thoughts on the Rally and CAFOs in South Dakota | Dakota Rural Action. […]

  2. […] the Department of Agriculture’s county site analysis program, and about why HB 1201 is an open door to out-of-state, monopolistic corporate ag development. We’ve gathered hundreds of signatures of South Dakotans across the state who believe in […]

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