I write this as my farewell to you, the readers of this column.
I will return to my real life soon – my life as a husband, father, grandfather, West River rancher. Calving season will be in full swing March 28, and I plan to be there.
I had originally planned to continue the column until I retired as secretary, but the column was a team effort. It just isn't the same now that some of the team members are gone.
The purpose of this column has been to make people think. While attempting to keep it factual, I admit it is written with a rancher's bias. I hope you have found it interesting, sometimes humorous, but most importantly, thought provoking.
A goal of the column has been to weaken resistance to change. And I sense that we are making progress – giving more young people a reason to stay in South Dakota. It is all about opportunity – the same opportunities that made this state and country great.
The column has even had an impact in our nation's capitol. I was one of the first to oppose the bill to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption. It's not that I want to eat my horse, but if someone wants to eat horse meat, is it wrong? Is it better or worse than letting horses die of abandonment?
I have also taken strong positions regarding the management of our federal lands – insisting that the manager of the land also be the steward of the land. And that pests, weeds, bugs and even prairie dogs be managed or controlled. And that forest health be a priority so that we aren't left with a sick and dying forest – one that will surely burn. While I support pristine areas, places of pure beauty, I do not support wilderness areas. That designation ties the hands of the land managers. Landowners, public or private, should be good neighbors.
I have supported animal agriculture of various shapes and sizes, but never at the expense of the environment. Science can and is being utilized to protect our precious water and minimize and manage odor. It is all part of being a good neighbor.
I continue to argue for certainty in planning and zoning. Develop the rules and then follow the rules without discrimination, as is demanded by the Equal Protection Clause of both the U.S. and South Dakota constitutions.
It is fitting that I close with words I heard my first summer as your secretary of agriculture: "Change is imminent. We can either oppose change and most likely be consumed by that change, or we can approach change and try to shape it for our own benefit. The choice is ours."
I hope the column has caused you to think – the best decisions are products of thorough thinking.