Zombie Keystone XL Pipeline Comes Back in the Form of – a Resolution?

by Paul Seamans, DRA Board Member and Landowner Crossed by the Pipeline Formerly Known as Keystone XL

The South Dakota and Nebraska folks in opposition to the Keystone XL refer to it as the Zombie Pipeline, the pipeline that won’t die. The  South Dakota legislature appears to support TransCanada’s efforts to keep the pipeline on life support even though President Obama has denied the cross border permit.

Whoever crafted this resolution should have done some research on the facts rather than repeating half truths, many don’t even reach the half-true threshold:

Page 2, line 6 states that the pipeline will transport 700,000 barrels per day. TransCanada’s releases say 830,000bpd. The resolutions inaccuracies get worse the deeper into the resolution you go.

Page 1, line 7: the United States no longer imports more than half of its oil. The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) figures that the US is close to self sufficiency in crude oil. Congress recently lifted the ban on the export of crude that has been in place since the oil embargo days of the 1970’s.

Page 2, line 8: This quote of 120,000 jobs is three times the estimate of 42,000 jobs quoted in the Dept. of States Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Of these 42,000 jobs only 3900 jobs would be for part time (during the construction season) construction workers for a one year period. If construction were to last two seasons then you would divide these job numbers by two. 3900 construction jobs for one year or 1950 construction jobs for two years. The FSEIS figures the rest of the 42,000 jobs would be spin off jobs. The FSEIS even envisioned that a construction worker might buy a ticket to a broadway show in New York City.

Page 2, line 9: the claim here is that $20 billion in economic activity will be created. Again by referring to the FSEIS they predict that $3.4 billion would be added to the GDP. $3.4 billion is only 0.05% of GDP. Chump change.

Page 2, line 21: saying that 90% of the money used to buy Canadian oil will be spent in the United States is pure guess work, nowhere before have I seen this quoted. If that is true then Canada’s economy must be in shambles. Many of these oil fields in Alberta are owned by foreign multi national corporations. Much of this money will go to companies in Great Britain, China, and other countries.

One last thing that needs mentioning is that since president Obama has denied the permit, TransCanada feels that they deserve damages under NAFTA rules. TransCanada figures that they have spent around $3.4 billion on the pipeline even though they knew that they might not get their permit. TransCanada is instead not suing for $3.4 billion but they are suing for $15 billion for loss of future profits. Does the South Dakota legislature want to send a resolution of support to Congress when this same company is suing our own federal government.

I feel that our South Dakota legislators are working on these meaningless resolutions, and many bills that are fluff, because they don’t want to tackle the tough issues that are facing our state. Put the Zombie Pipeline out of its misery. It’s been on life support long enough. Let it die.

Cool, Clear Water…Maybe

by Robin EH. Bagley

While uranium mining and the groundwater associated with it aren’t the focus of this year’ legislative session, one only has to read back through this blog to see the lack of protection the state affords our water (ground and surface). The issue of in-situ leach uranium mining has been lurking around South Dakota for several years now, and happily, the permits have not been granted.

This is not due to our state government standing up and telling Azarga (formerly Powertech) a clear, resounding “NO!” In fact, the state has been quite welcoming and helpfully refused to passed groundwater safety bills and even a resolution stating how important water is to the welfare of the state and its people. The state was ready to roll out the welcome mat.

No, the reason we have prevented the mining thus far is due to tireless on-the-ground community organizing. Passionate people who have stood their ground in that water is life, and that uranium mining is a direct and permanent threat to it.

So, knowing that the state hasn’t done much to protect our groundwater, it was with interest I read a recent article in my local newspaper. In the January 6, 2016 edition of the Custer County Chronicle there was an article about Custer’s water supply being in danger of contamination from nitrates, arsenic and total coliform bacteria. The water study was undertaken by the City of Custer and the SD School of Mines & Technology, with data incorporated from the US Geological Survey. The nitrates and total coliform bacteria are considered to be human caused (ie: septic tanks and livestock) and could be mitigated if the point sources are found. The arsenic is naturally occurring in this region, so it’s always an issue that bears watching with groundwater. Arsenic is naturally occurring, it’s also a carcinogen.

What was interesting about this article was that it addressed how groundwater moves in this region, and how difficult that is to track because of the complexity of the geology. “The study showed areas of the aquifer with large fractures or structural features are vulnerable to contaminant transport….That means contaminants in groundwater have the potential to migrate through the City of Custer and beyond” (Custer County Chronicle, 1/6/2016).

Let’s be clear, the contaminants addressed in this testing are not the same as the contaminants from uranium mining (well, arsenic is still a concern either way). However, the point is that the Black Hills geology is very complex and that no one really understands where underground contaminants will go or how far they will travel.

The newspaper quotes the report delivered to the City: “The variability and complexity of the Precambrian fractured crystalline aquifer at Custer and throughout the entire Black Hills, necessitates a deeper understanding and commitment to protecting the water resources that many people depend on,” (Custer County Chronicle, 1/6/2016).

That’s pretty clear.

The Perennial Issue of Water

by Carl Kline

 

Some years ago, I took a group of twenty from the U.S. to India. Our place of residence was the Kasturbagram Rural Institute in Madhya Pradesh. It was a teacher training institution for women named after the wife of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

We stayed there while the school was on holiday. It was simple living. Our bed was a mat on the floor. One’s personal space was a foot or two on each side of the bed. There were simple bucket showers. You filled a bucket half full and used a plastic measuring cup to pour water over your body, soap up, then use the plastic cup to rinse off.

 

Many in the group didn’t respect the Indian bathing tradition. They bathed like they did at home, pouring buckets full throughout the process. Two days after we arrived, the well went dry. For the rest of our stay we traveled several kilometers with a bullock cart to fill a fifty gallon barrel with water at a neighboring well. Suffering through a third year of draught, the neighboring well was in danger too. That barrel had to last us for a day, for drinking, cooking, bathing, however it was needed.

 

My India bathing habits changed. Now I tried using a quarter of a bucket, or less, for the rest of our stay. And when I arrived home, there was a new found respect for that essential element in our lives, water. For a good year I continued the bucket and measuring cup tradition, standing in the shower, without turning it on.

 

Today the news is full of the water disaster in Flint, Michigan. People have been drinking poisoned water for years, with the apparent knowledge of public officials. As in most cases, this suffering hits the poor the hardest. Forty percent of the population of Flint live in poverty, many of them African American. Given the effects of lead poisoning, one can only guess what their children will encounter to keep them from making a better life.

 

But this isn’t the first or only community to suffer from poisoned water. There are some reports that many cities in this country have a similar problem. Infrastructure is old. Pipes are corroding. And levels of allowable lead can be gamed by testers, simply by following official instructions to flush before testing.

 

That’s not to mention what has happened to water in Native American communities. Here’s a culture that has traditionally had the utmost respect for the indispensable elements of life and they are suffering the most from poisoned water.

 

Navajo water has long been contaminated by coal mining and uranium spills. The situation there is as bad or worse than Flint. It’s been happening since the 1950’s. There has been no potable water on the reservation for decades. Peabody Coal drained the wells to slurry coal 256 miles into Nevada. Toxic holding ponds leak and end up in waterways. And the uranium industry, now long gone, left a water supply contaminated and draining into the Colorado River.

 

Louise Benally, a spokesperson for Navajo Black Mesa lamented in Washington, D.C. recently, “that no one’s talking about their water situation.”

 

We don’t have to go to the Southwest to find poisoned water. We could go to the Pine Ridge Reservation in our own state, where testing from several sites reveals a number of metals above EPA recommended safe levels for drinking water. They include: antimony, arsenic, bismuth, copper, lead and uranium. (There are 272 abandoned uranium mines in South Dakota, many on tribal lands). Statistically, with more than one metal with high concentrations in drinking water, 46% of the population is at risk for developing multiple cancers. Pine Ridge has one of the highest cancer clusters in the U.S.

 

Nor should we forget the Canadian indigenous communities near and downstream the tar sands operations in Alberta. The mining has polluted the water so badly wildlife is becoming scarce and the people are getting sick and dying in astonishing numbers.

 

But these big operators: mines, fracking operations, fossil fuel companies (and in our state, CAFOs) use water at will; and states and the federal government let them leave the little people to suffer the consequences. It’s not a surprise that the poor and politically powerless are the first to suffer. And the new Indians, small farmers and ranchers, are the next group in line.

 

It might be wise for all of us to know, who determines how water is used and how much is used? How often is our water tested? Who tests it? How transparent and public is the process? How careful are we of our shallow aquifers? Are our underground sources being drained by industrial agriculture, as is happening all over the mid west? What are we doing to prepare for climate change and the draught and floods it may bring? How secure and sustainable is our clean water future?

 

They say the human body is up to 60% water. For some living things it’s 90%. You would think we would respect water and want to keep it pure?

We Need to Protect Our Resources Now

by Robin EH. Bagley

I recently read an article about Stephen Hawking’s prediction that we (as in humans) are taking our species to the brink and will need to colonize space in the next 1,000 – 10,000 years in order to avoid extinction. Sounds crazy, right?

Before you break out the tinfoil hats, let’s think about who Stephen Hawking is. He’s often called the Einstein of our times, one of the pre-eminent physicists in the world, has an IQ of 160, and has studied the beginnings of the universe. So when he talks, I think it’s worthwhile to listen.

Lest we think we have at least 1,000 years to get this all figured out, Hawking warns us that the next 100 years will be crucial for humans to survive long enough to figure out how to live in space. Now 100 years doesn’t seem so far away, does it? My grandmother turns 100 this year, so we can say that it’s really a lifetime we have left to solve some pretty big problems.

We can’t all work on how to colonize space, but we can all work on how not to kill ourselves off in the next few hundred years. Personally, I think that’s just common sense.

There are many ways, large and small, that people like you and me right here in South Dakota can make a difference for our kids, grandkids and beyond. Let’s start with protecting our natural resources for future generations rather than sacrificing them to extractive energy companies and big ag. We know that there’s tremendous potential for solar power here, but most of utility companies and our state government, legislature included, can’t be bothered to remove the barriers that would make it easier for South Dakotans to invest in solar for their homes and businesses. Net metering anyone?

In case we forget, South Dakota is one of just seven states without net metering, so we’re behind the curve. We see cities and utilities in other states making leaps forward in renewable energy, solar and otherwise, but because of our regressive climate, those things aren’t happening here. We’re part of the problem, not the solution. In Spain and Italy companies are exploring incorporating wind turbines into existing structures, such as bridges. In Portland, the city has started generating electricity in some of its water pipes. Yes, hydro power in city water mains – genius!

And while we’re on the subject of water, let’s remember that water is necessary for human life. The human body can exist for about three weeks without food but only three or four days without water. Let’s stop ruining our water. That South Dakota’s water is pristine is a myth. Go grab a glass of water out of the Big Sioux and drink it. It’s the 13th dirtiest river in the nation. Yum.

Recall that the Big Sioux basin is where the state would like to concentrate new confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), mostly large dairies. This further endangers the river; it’s the opposite of protecting it. On the other side of the state, the Madison aquifer is threatened by in-situ leach uranium mining. Radioactive water will not turn us all into Spiderman (yes, I know he was bitten by a radioactive spider, but you get the gist). If we think we can count on our state or federal government to protect our water, I have two words: Flint, Michigan.

In the interests of keeping humans around for a few thousand more years, we need to clean up our act. Let’s get busy with renewable energy and stop peeing in our own pool. Personally, I like Earth and think it could be nice if we could stay.

Weekend Special: Small Is Beautiful

by Carl Kline

E.F. Schumacher wrote the book Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered back in 1973, more than 40 years ago. In it, he argued that the modern economy was unsustainable.

Some of the major problems he saw were in our assumptions about production.

One problem was that fossil fuels, the primary source of energy for productivity, was treated as income rather than as capital that depreciates. You can’t renew fossil fuels. Once expended they are gone. Natural resources are depleted as they are used. Eventually you come to the end of the line in a finite universe.

A second problem he saw was the earth had limits to absorbing pollution. He couldn’t have known then that the tonnage of plastic in the oceans in the 21st. century would be approaching the tonnage of fish. But perhaps he was becoming aware at the time of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Today we don’t need Schumacher’s foresight. The evidence is all around us of how fossil fuels are killing us. And our attachment to an economy of “more and bigger” puts the carrying capacity of the planet in greater and greater danger.

Most of the legislation of import that comes before the S.D. legislature needs to be framed with Schumacher’s “Buddhist economics” in mind. What’s best for the village? What’s the most appropriate scale for an activity? It’s not always “big is better” or “growth is good” that should determine a policy. Increasingly, sustainability and regeneration should be the fundamental principles in decision making. They should provide the framework for a human future.

As our legislators consider bills that: address the needs of small farmers and ranchers; protect public assets like water and land resources; regulate CAFOs; insure health care to all our citizens; encourage independent solar and wind energy use; let them ask how materialism might take a back seat to justice, harmony, health and beauty, to sustainability. Let them make their decisions for at least the next generation of small beings, if not the seventh.

Weekend Special: The Hidden Costs of CAFOs

by Bill Powers

An unfortunately old report (http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/cafos-uncovered.pdf, 2008) by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) asks why is it that CAFO numbers are increasing dramatically. They argue studies by the USDA indicate that CAFOs are no more efficient than medium sized operations. Instead they suggest that the benefit CAFOs accrue are due to farm policy, among these including processing contracts. Most CAFOs rely almost exclusively upon purchased feed. Alternative livestock operations will rely much more upon their own pasture and crop production. As such, the significant Federal subsidy for grain production indirectly favors CAFO operations.

UCS (2008) estimates are that there is a $3.86 billion/year grain subsidy to the livestock industry by crop subsidies. Other indirect costs that they consider are reductions in property values ($26 billion), and manure remediation costs $4.1 billion totals as of 2008. These external costs are paid for by the US taxpayer.

Optimum efficiency (cost/unit of production) is reached well below CAFO (2008 measures) size. They argue that studies have shown that economies of scale is not a signifcant factor favoring larger livestock operations. Fro example, one study showed that the optimal size for hogs was about 120 sows, producing about 2400 hogs/year. CAFOs do benefit from the more efficient use of fodder for weight gain since it is not expended in moving around pastures or adjusting to changes in climate. These gains, however, have to be offset by considerable increases in other costs. After all, the much higher cost of creating and maintaining CAFO environmentally controlled buildings, in addition to the added cost associated with animal health and manure management have to be offset somehow. The UCS argues that this is primarily offset by low grain costs. They note:

Low-cost inputs spread the high fixed costs of confinement infrastructure
(such as the buildings that contain the animals) over many units of production. CAFOs can compensate for low profit margins per animal by producing large numbers of animals. By contrast, small and diversified producers often have relatively lower fixed costs and higher variable costs, and may attempt to lower their costs by reducing production when prices are low. In this way, CAFOs may expand at the expense of smaller operations.

In effect, then, it is the US taxpayer who is indirectly subsidizing CAFOs. The UCS argue that there are alternative livestock operations that may be more efficient than either CAFOs or medium sized farms. Because of the significant external costs to CAFOs, it would seem that seeking such alternatives are well worth pursuing by publicly funded institutions.

The UCS consider, too, the affect of anti-competitive processing practices, a violation of the Packers and Stockyard Act (PSA). Processing facilities require governmental inspections. It may be that this requirement favors larger processing facilities. With the concentration of processing in the hands of a few, and contract relationships between larger producers and processing facilities favored, access of medium sized livestock operations to consumers is hampered, even when their production costs are competitive. This situation favors both the concentration of processing facilities and livestock operations.

What needs to be asked is why processing operations favor contract relationships with larger livestock operations. We could imagine that there might be vertical integration gains if the processing facilities owned their own livestock operations. While this is the case for some, it is not generally true. One possible problem is that while the cost/unit of production is the same (or even better) for smaller operations, they may require a higher marginal profit to remain in business than a CAFO. A small farmer might be able to competitively produce a profit of $10,000, but could not remain in business long because of external costs, viz., himself and family. A larger operation, employing more people, can simply lay off a whole person. I’m not being overly clear here, but it does seem that large facilities may be able to survive at a lower margin of profit than a smaller unit.

In any case, it appears that for the most part it is only the largest producers than sell their produce under contract.

Since feed costs represent something like 50% of the cost for CAFOs, they are sensitive to feed costs. To determine the subsidy to CAFOs through crop support programs, one would have to be able to determine what the cost of grains would have been without such supports. Starmer and Wise (http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/wp/07-04LivingHighOnHog.pdf, 2007) examine the cost of production of beans and corn and the market price of both. Because of Federal supports make up the difference to keep farmers solvent, the Federal subsidy enables CAFOs to purchase grain at a cost below the cost of production, an advantage that a livestock producer who grows his own grain and pastures his livestock cannot take advantage of. Starmer and Wise estimate that between 1998 and 2005 this translated into about a 15% savings in costs for hog CAFOs. Smaller sized livestock operations that produced their own grains after 1990 can also take advantage of these subsidies even if they do not sell the grain. However, studies have shown that the subsidies do not fully compensate farmers for the difference between production costs and market prices. As a result, there is a “subsidy gap,” one that benefits the CAFO and disadvantages the smaller livestock producer.

There are a number of issues that are worth investigating with regard to commodity prices and CAFOs. It would be interesting to find out what has happened to this “subsidy gap” since 2007. Farmers who rely upon these supports might simply argue for higher supports. By reducing this gap, it would help the smaller livestock producer. The recent bump in corn prices due to increased ethanol production dramatically increased corn prices. It would be worthwhile to consider at what commodity price the operation of CAFO style production would be less profitable than a livestock operation that grows its own feed.

Well enough said and researched for now.

Tribal Legislative Consideration: the ‘Vanishing Americans’ Comeback

(This is a summary of legislative thoughts inspired by a recent briefing from the former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Carl Artman, who spoke on Dakota Midday.)

 by Meghan Thoreau

There are 566 Tribes in the US. Nine tribes in South Dakota that make up almost 10% of the state’s population according to the US Census Bureau. In 2012, “every county located on a reservation has shown growth in population while many of the other rural counties have shown a loss.”1 This trend continues through to 2015. Native Americans were known as the “Vanishing Americans,” 100 years later, they are one of the fastest growing groups in America.2 Many tribes see this growth as positive, but are struggling with how to capitalize the growth to benefit Indian economic development efforts.

Rapid City’s Native American population grew over 40 percent in the last past 10 years.3 That’s over 12.5% of Rapid City’s total population according to the US Census Bureau.

“On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation alone there are four high schools and several elementary and middle schools employing several hundred well-paid teachers [that could be debated] and administrators and the majority of these employees are Native American.”4

Indian Tribes of South Dakota

PIc1

Source: http://www.sdtribalrelations.com/maptribes.aspx

It appears that the Native youth want to stay on the reservation, and the hope is that more people will want to come back to the reservation after going out to get an education and/or work experience. There is a growing desire to reinvestment into Native communities and this will allow a tribe to grow, create an economic base, social infrastructure, and context where people want to come back to.

Unique challenges for South Dakota. We are a rural state. Gaming industries appear more successful in states with greater populations then South Dakota currently has.We have to look at other economic opportunity and partnerships such as ‘Tribal tourism’ and ‘Indian Economic Development’ efforts and legislation that address Native barriers.

Such discussions are absent in this legislative session. Lawmakers should be crafting legislation that make a region, make a state more successful and inclusive of its people and their issues. The Agua Caliente is a great example of regional success between tribe, city, and state.

Tribes need long term strategic planning opportunities. Tribal nations have a rich and lengthy history that goes back 10,000 years. There is numerous examples of cooperative efforts in that long history that forged great successes and alliances between tribes and governments.

One Lakota value is to ‘put the people before the self.’ In a capitalistic society, we ‘put the individual before the people.’ How can we overcome our cultural difference to bring culturally appropriate development? How Natives rank an individual’s value varies slightly between tribes, but commerce has existed for a very long time. Tribal business has made huge advances in the last couple decades, but there are still real barriers to tribal economic development that don’t exist in our cities. For examples, the ‘trust land issue’ prohibits most Native entrepreneurs to receive traditional bank loans, because the applicant may not have real property to offer as collateral.

Arizona State University College of Law started a program focused on Indian Economic Development. The program took creative approaches, such as collateralizing the infrastructure and buildings on the land instead of the land itself. How can South Dakota tribes start business on reservation? If the location and population is not the issue, perhaps the lack of legal infrastructure to start a business is the barrier. Many tribes have started adopting the uniform commercial code and corporation and limit liability laws that are similar to the rest of the nation. Tribes are improving their tribal courts so that there is consistency and predictability going into the tribal courts for a non-tribal business. The lending and commercial laws could be made consistent, easily published, and accessible. Having a strong legal structure will incentivize people to want to come to a reservation and want to do business there, because there is consistent laws, stability, and predictability, which are all the things capital demands.

‘Native people are uniquely drawn to the reservation and land, because a millennial of culture and history that is still preserved there.’ The reservation offers a spiritual land base to draw from, protect, grow, and improve.

Tim Giago, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, advises “merchants in cities like Sioux Falls and Rapid City, South Dakota to take a lesson from innovators like Roger Jordain: Native Americans are not the “Vanishing Americans” but are instead one of the fastest growing minority groups in the state and they will soon be one of your most important economic contributors.”9

Therefore legislative bills and discussions need to be more inclusive of the people and issues that are currently occurring in South Dakota.

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There are a few banking lending bills, but nothing appears to address the Native Economic Development Issues of lending to Natives with Trust Land issues, bill references below.

HB 1025  An Act to revise certain provisions regarding banks and banking.

  • Section 1: Day to day decision making was moved from the (volunteer) commission to the director.
  • Section 2: Day to day decision making on Community Development Investment projects made by banks, provides the authority to restrict that investment by a bank, authority change from the (volunteer) commission to the director.
  • In 2008 every application had to go before the commission. The commission met 4 times a year, hearing applications, not able to address other matters, supervision of the division, etc. The proposed bill shifts all decision making to the Director, but the commission serves as the appellate body on all applications, so if the applicant was aggrieved/ by a decision of the Director they would go before the commission with their appeal. The commission is still very involved if a bank as to be taken possession of, oversight of the division, new applications, enforcement activity.

HB 1027  An Act to revise certain provisions regarding the regulation of certain money lending activities.

  • Section 1: Definition update.
  • Section 3: shifting terms to calendar year end.
  • Section 4: addresses the divisions enforcement authorities
  • Section 5: Internet lending. Effects entities taking out a loan from another state.
  • Section 6: Specifies what lenders can not do when trying to collect debt.
  • Section 7: Information exchange.
  • Section 8: Outsource certain functions.
  • Section 9: Confidentiality requirements.

Online audio workshop discussions on bills: http://www.sdtribalrelations.com/sdleg.aspx

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1 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/native-americans-are-not-_b_1868676.html

2 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/native-americans-are-not-_b_1868676.html

3 http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/rapid-city-area-sees-growth-in-population-diversity/article_30773202-3a53-11e0-b886-001cc4c002e0.html

4 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/native-americans-are-not-_b_1868676.html

5 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/native-americans-are-not-_b_1868676.html

Senator Tim Johnson on the Farm Bill

Senator Tim Johnson is on record on the Farm Bill – here are his words from yesterday:

This conference report certainly is not perfect. As with any legislation that is this important and far-reaching, it is impossible to fully satisfy everybody. But this is a reasonable compromise.

Our ranchers will benefit significantly from this bill. Not only does this compromise enable country-of-origin labeling to continue as well as maintain USDA’s ability to ensure a fair and transparent
marketplace, but it also contains critical livestock disaster assistance programs to help ranchers in my State who are still recovering from the 2012 drought and last year’s terrible blizzard. My ranchers lost tens of thousands of livestock, and they have been left hanging because of congressional inaction. With passage, they will finally be able to get the aid they need.

A great statement from someone who clearly understands how directly the Farm Bill impacts farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. There is always time to thank someone for their support:

http://www.johnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact

Country-of-Origin, and the merits of a good label

As you (hopefully) know, our very own Rep. Kristi Noem is on the Farm Bill conference committee. This committee, made up of House and Senate representatives, should be coming up with a negotiated Farm Bill able to pass both houses of Congress. We know very well here the Farm Bill is one of the single most important pieces of legislation for rural states, with everything from conservation provisions to new farmer programs to crop insurance all wrapped up into one bill.

But one of the most key, and most controversial, pieces of the Farm Bill this year is the discussion going on around Country-of-Origin Labeling, or COOL. COOL is the only marketing tool for US producers to differentiate our product from other countries to American and foreign customers. COOL allows us to say, “Yup. Born, bred, and made in the USA.” Which, for whatever reason, is not okay with some people up on Capitol Hill.

But producers want COOL. Country-of-origin labels allow ranchers to distinguish our livestock as products made in the US. The vast majority of livestock producers support labeling. Consumers, more and more concerned with the quality of their food, think it is a good idea to have labels on packages of meat telling them where it came from! COOL rewards South Dakotas ranchers, and many of our members, for their high quality beef.

There are a few folks up in Congress who would like to repeal COOL, bowing to the pressure of industry groups and others who think we shouldn’t be able to proudly display that we raised the meat. And our rep, Kristi Noem, has given COOL tepid support at best, despite overwhelming support in her own home state.

So call her office. Call her agriculture staffer, Renee Laterell, and tell her Kristi needs to make a strong, public statement in support of COOL and that she should be the leader on the Farm Bill conference committee on this issue. You can email her as well – both phone and email are below. Make the call now – our representative has the power to make COOL stick, and you have the power to help her make that happen.

Renee Latterell, Rep. Noem’s Agriculture Staffer
renee.latterell@mail.house.gov
Phone number: (855) 225-2801

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Raw milk rules heading to Legislative Rules Review Committee

With two small changes, the proposed raw milk rules are heading to the Legislative Rules Review Committee (LRRC) on November 12.

The two changes are an increase in the allowable bacteria count from 20,000 to 30,000 and a change in the wording of the warning label to, “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria.”

While these are improvements, the changes ignore the numerous other issues, contradictions, and potential illegalities of the proposed rules. Our members maintain these rules as proposed are not amendable; they need to be so radically changed to fit what is appropriate for the level of raw milk production and market access that they should simply be rescinded.

Additionally, the statute (the only statute) regarding raw milk production, SDCL 39-6-3, needs to be fixed before further rules are promulgated. We are working on a potential fix right now, and hope to come to a solution during the next legislative session. It is worth waiting a few months to get a permanent fix rather than pushing through unwieldy rules now that would have to be changed in a few months anyway.

We will keep you updated with the available locations for the meeting (they’ll be in five locations around the state) and we strongly urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to oppose these rules, and to make their opposition know to the LRRC as soon as possible. You can also contact members of the LRRC here.

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