September 13, 2023
In a year when crop and cattle markets are up, South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers still earn much less than what consumers pay at the grocery store.
To reinforce this fact, South Dakota Farmers Union provided lunch Sept. 2 to South Dakota State Fair attendees for only 42 cents — the price family farmers and ranchers receive for the ingredients.
“This nearly free lunch brings to light how much the middleman makes,” said Parade rancher Oren Lesmeister.
“The price people pay for a steak at the meat counter is far from the price I receive. Thankfully, beef prices are up this year, but my family only receives $2.64 for the $9.99 steak sold at the grocery store,” he said. “And this goes for all commodities we raise here in South Dakota.”
Feeding more than 1,000 fairgoers, the Farmer’s Share lunch is a long-standing tradition for the state’s largest agriculture organization and premiere sponsor of the South Dakota State Fair, said Karla Hofhenke, SDFU executive director.
“Agriculture is South Dakota’s No. 1 industry and economic driver,” Hofhenke said. “This Farmer’s Share lunch is one way to help educate all South Dakotans on the economics of raising crops and livestock. We see it as a way to boost support for the South Dakota families doing the work.”
Tracy Solseng agreed. “Forty-two cents seems very cheap and is a bit surprising, because when we go to the grocery store, we pay much more,” she said. Solseng from Huron attend the fair with her parents, Elton and Colleen Solseng from North Dakota.
Tradition and education
Educating consumers as well as farm and ranch families is a large focus of the South Dakota Farmers Union. And during Farmers Union Day at the state fair, the organization also hosts Farm Safety Quiz Bowl championships for high schoolers. It is an opportunity for teens to sharpen and showcase their farm safety knowledge.
“I have seen many farm and ranch families go through loss or injury due to accidents. It’s devastating,” said Doug Sombke, SDFU president. “This quiz bowl is one of several ways our organization works to promote safety through education And because fairgoers of all ages watch the competition, the quiz bowl educates more than youth.”
Students from Gettysburg, the Selby area, Platte-Geddes and Wolsey-Wessington competed.
SDFU also hosts a Landowner Rights Forum. “Landowner rights have been part of our organization’s policy since the beginning. Because for farmers and ranchers, our land is much more than our livelihood — it is our legacy,” Sombke said.
SDFU policy is established by its members. “We are not told what our policy is by the national organization. Our policy is developed at the local level based on what is important to our members. This is the definition of ‘grassroots,’” Sombke said.
Landowner rights have received attention in recent months after the corporation, Summit Carbon Solutions, began threatening to use eminent domain in order to install its pipeline on private land in South Dakota.
“Threatening to use eminent domain instead of working with landowners is not respecting landowner rights,” said Lesmeister, who also is a state House representative for District 28A.
Source: South Dakota Farmers Union
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