Home > South Dakota > SD Ag Summit Part 1: A few thoughts about Lentsch’s State of Agriculture Address

SD Ag Summit Part 1: A few thoughts about Lentsch’s State of Agriculture Address

July 7, 2014
SD Ag Secretary Lucas Lentsch speaking in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema

SD Ag Secretary Lucas Lentsch speaking in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema

On June 26 and 27 I attended the SD Governor’s Agricultural Summit in Deadwood, South Dakota. Overall I would say it was an informative trip. I have a series of posts planned about the event. In addition to this post there will likely be 5 to 7 more posts. This was a great place to pick up a variety of stories. The PowerPoint presentations from the event can be found on the SD Dept of Ag website.

Today’s post will focus on the State of Agriculture Address by SD Ag Secretary Lucas Lentsch. He started out by saying “The state of agriculture in South Dakota is strong”. Which of course was met with loud applause since the audience was mostly filled with various stakeholder in the ag industry. He went on to say a diversified portfolio of agricultural products was key for the industry to survive its peaks and valleys.

Lentsch did a good job highlighting the ag products raised and grown right in South Dakota. He mentioned some of the value-added ag businesses that have really begun to grow here in South Dakota. He highlighted the dairy processing for China in particular. Lentsch and other stakeholders in Pierre have been working closely with China to increase South Dakota’s export of dairy products to China.

I actually applaud our dairy producers exporting to China. But I do have a couple of problems with the State getting involved. I question whether taxpayer dollars are best spent sending bureaucrats to China on behalf of SD farmers. I would think the industry would be better served sending their own representatives and keeping the state out of the conversation. The free market works best when the state gets out of economic development.

It also seems odd that one portion of the conservative base in South Dakota (agriculture) is embracing more relations with China. While at the same time other portions of the conservative base in South Dakota are deriding China as a security threat. Personally I think trade with China is the best way to improve the economy in both areas. But as long as the conservative base is somewhat schizophrenic about China it will make ongoing relations tough. Perhaps now is the time for the anti-China crowd to take an issue-by-issue approach to our dealings with this fast-growing super-power. There is no reason to make an enemy of China. Yes, China has to make some changes politically; but I would say the same could be said for the US. OK, now I’m getting too far off topic.

An interesting stance taken by Lentsch was his support of renewable energies because he has “been in the oil fields of Iraq”. Energy independence has been a political tool used by many over the years. I just hope the state doesn’t try to use “economic development” money to further promote subsidize the renewable energy industry. Instead the State should be making sure there are few regulatory hurdles in the way of enterprising South Dakotan’s that wish to enter the renewable energy market. That is true economic development in the free market.

Finally I want to touch on raw milk. This was not a topic of Lentsch’s, but I did take a chance to speak him with about it the day before. Earlier this year Lentsch’s department fought hard against SB 126, which would have made the over-burdensome raw milk regulations implemented last year more realistic. Lentsch and Dakota Rural Action came to agreement that killed SB 126, with a promise of better regulations. I have been somewhat skeptical of a true fix happening. When speaking with Lentsch he believes good headway is being made towards a true compromise. He further stated it was never his intent to kill an industry, especially an ag industry. Now we will just have to wait and see if a true compromise is truly enacted that will allow this small, yet well-loved, portion of the dairy industry to survive.

The PDF of Lentsch’s presentation can be downloaded here. Overall his presentation was actually pretty good and informative. But thanks to the mishandling of the raw milk industry I am somewhat wary of the Dept of Ag. Also I feel we need to watch the Dept of Ag and make sure it doesn’t spend too much taxpayer dollars in the name of ‘economic development’.

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    July 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Do we give Daugaard credit for this for his China trip and chalk the cost of the trip to being worthwhile? Any evidence for this?

    • July 8, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      I can’t see any reason we would need to send anyone from the state, especially the Governor.

      • Merlyn Schutterle
        July 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm

        I don’t either. Maybe it was a taxpayer paid joy ride.

  1. July 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm
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