Letter to Editor-Tri State Neighbor Jan 23, 2004
Since Amendment E has come up as a topic of discussion once more, I feel
obliged to add some input to the discussion. Amendment E came into being in
spite of the opposition of every livestock and commodity group in the state
including the SD Pork Producers, SD Cattlemen, SD Sheep producers, SD
Soybean Growers, SD Corn Utilization Council, etc.
Dakota Rural Action accomplished this feat in the face of overwhelming
opposition from farm and ranch families through the unethical use of
blatantly false political advertising (remember the physteria ads and the
Smithfield bashing ads). These productions were paid for with huge sums of
out of state money, which DRA would have us believe they despise. These ads
offended and harmed everyone in the livestock industry, but they allowed DRA
to win through deception that which they could not win through logic or
science. While DRA rails against evils of outside capital in South Dakota
agriculture, the vast majority of its' money comes from enormous out of
As for the accomplishments of Amendment E, it failed to keep Murphy Farms
from partnering with some 200 farmers in the Midwest. Those hogs are still
marketed at the same plants that SD producer's hogs are. Amendment E did
keep SD corn farmers from benefitting from an annual ongoing multimillion
bushel corn market and likewise hurt all our soybean farmers. It resulted
in Iowa and Illinois taxpayers benefitting from many millions of dollars in
additional tax base while our schools, counties and state continued to
struggle to find dollars for services.
Farmers in every state around with anti-corporate farming laws (Nebraska,
North Dakota, and Minnesota) are unhappy with the unintended consequenses
stifling rural development and are working to rewrite those laws.
DRA wants to protect the small family farm from competition from larger
farms. If they could roll back the cost of living to what it was 30 years
ago, that goal would be feasible. The problem is that today's farmer must
pay today's health insurance, fuel, utilities, education, taxes, etc. and
every one of these bills will be higher tomorrow. Farm net income needs to
grow 6 percent per year to keep up with farm operating and family living
costs. The lifestyle that will attract a son or daughter to take on an
operation is not the lifestyle that grandpa endured. I make a living on two
quarters of land, but it is my Murphy contract that makes it possible.
South Dakota farmers have never been threatened by large scale
corporate-controlled factory farms (whatever that is). South Dakota law
does not allow out of state corporations to own agricultural real estate and
hasn't since the 1976 Family Farm Act. No out of state company can do
anything in South Dakota unless there is a beneficial partnership for the
farmer, and what is good for the farmer is good for the farm community.
Amendment E (1998) has been ruled unconstitutional thanks to the efforts of
every livestock and grain producer group in the state. Farm organizations
from Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Utah have
joined in because they recognize the threat to their farm communities as
DRA refused to compromise during the last election on Amendment A. They
wanted Amendment E or nothing. Now they have nothing. So be it.
I think it is high time we let the farmer decide what is good for him and
what size and kind of operation will pay the bills. Having farm activists
dictating to us how we farm goes against every South Dakota tradition.
Oscar Wenholm Jr