An Ear to the Ground

By Walt Bones

South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture

South Dakota Department of Ag Celebrates 110 Years

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In 1885, South Dakota and North Dakota, jointly known then as Dakota Territory, were managed by a Board of Agriculture. When South Dakota and North Dakota officially became states in 1889, the board continued to manage both areas with citizens from each state. As each state continued to separate and grow on their own, South Dakota developed the Department of Horticulture, Manufactories, and Domestic Arts, established in 1903.

One hundred ten years later the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) continues to promote, protect, preserve, and improve South Dakota’s agriculture. That mission statement is carried out by seven very diverse divisions within the Department: Office of the Secretary, Policy, Services, Development, State Fair Park, Wildland Fire, and Resource Conservation and Forestry.

The programs within SDDA are administered by almost 200 full-time employees and have three different sources of funding (general funds, federal funds, and other funds or fees). As far as the total tax dollars, or general funds, the SDDA receives about four tenths of one percent of the State’s annual budget.

The programs and projects that we support, fund and administer reflect the diversity within South Dakota’s agricultural industry.

Just in this last year, we have helped promote and fund farmer’s markets and local gardens. We have commented on Federal policies that would have crippled farmers regardless of size. Our services and development staff have provided technical expertise and guidance to not only Bel Brands USA and their 400 jobs coming to Brookings, but also the first artisan cheese plant in the state near Crooks.

Our crews have fought forest fires, range fires and pine beetles on both private and state land. We have helped finance a robotic milking machine to a family run 60-cow dairy, allowing them to continue milking cows efficiently and economically. This also improved the family’s quality of life by giving them the benefit of not being tied to the cows all day, every day.

At the same time, we have helped larger dairy, swine and beef operators grow their existing business here in South Dakota and found locations for livestock producers to relocate to our great State.

The South Dakota State Fair is growing and provides entertainment, education and a platform to highlight the vast array of projects our 4-H and FFA kids have worked on all year long. Our conservationists administer over $1.5 million to plant trees and kill weeds.

We also annually train and certify over 8,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators. Our inspectors watch over dairies, nurseries, feed, and food processing plants along with registering 7,500+ products annually for economic, environmental, health and safety reasons.

We have a great story to share and are constantly trying to tell the consuming public what our agricultural producers are doing, how they are doing it, and why they are doing it that way. Our new website has been running for over a year (sdda.sd.gov) and provides a wealth of information on all our programs and projects. You can also connect and interact with us over Facebook and Twitter (@SDAgriculture).

It has been an honor to serve as your Secretary of Agriculture for two years now. We have worked to always be inclusive knowing that “at the table of opportunity, there is room and need for everyone.”

So please join me as we celebrate 110 years of SDDA and Ag week during March 18-22.

Thank you all for making Agriculture South Dakota’s number one industry!

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