News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel S.D. Secretary of Agriculture What is your gift?

This is the season of gifts. South Dakota has many. The few stingy people that might be found here at other times are not in sight.

As the year comes to a close I like to take inventory of what we have accomplished. There are several ways to measure "accomplishment".

Some like to count money and see how wealth has increased. But wealth is (in my experience) not always a good indicator of how well the state or agriculture is doing. Wealth can be fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow due to circumstances beyond our control.

Some like to count numbers of people and point to growth in population as an accomplishment, but population growth is not without its burdens. Sometimes it makes a situation worse for many of the people in a given area. (Those of us who live in the middle of open prairie certainly don't want to see it covered with boom towns.)

Some like to measure production numbers. This year South Dakota had the largest corn crop in history, according to recent reports. But production numbers don't always indicate that the quality of life is improving for our farmers or the communities where they live.

Numbers are a useful thing, but they should never be the end objective.

I would like to see more dairy cows in the state, but not just because I like big numbers. We need a larger herd to support our dairy processing industry and keep it from going under.

I would like to see more of you attend the State Fair, but not because I like big affairs. We need more people to attend so we can continue to support the related efforts of promoting agricultural research, education, technology transfer and 4-H activities which enhance the quality of rural life dependent upon agriculture.

I would like to see more ag processing and value-added enterprises developed in our rural areas, but not because I adore processing. Many of our small communities are dying. The empty homes, vacant commercial buildings and half-empty schools need more people and the towns need new areas in their economic base to support those people.

We did not yet make the State Fair a financial success. We did not increase the dairy herd to size that is needed (Not yet!). We did not yet generate a boom in the rural economy or in the number of farmers and ranchers.

Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

Of the gifts that count most, I believe the greatest gift you can give South Dakota is the fact that you care about her.

Whether we agree or disagree on issues, most of the citizens I met throughout the year really do care about our state. That's the best gift. Merry Christmas!

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