An Important Legislative Update for South Dakota Farmers & Contractors

February 15, 2013

On Wednesday, February 13, a South Dakota Senate committee kllled Bill 179 by a 6-1 vote. The bill would have raised the cost and increased the restrictions on South Dakota drainage permits.

Several stakeholders had the opportunity to address the committee and made some great points in opposition to the bill. Below are a few more things to consider as we continue looking for ways to support farmers and our rural economy.

I am Jamie Duininck from Prinsco, Inc. Our company has a 35-year history of partnering with the agricultural industry to advance farming efficiency and production. I am posting this article because I am both excited, and concerned, about the state of our industry.

I am excited because agricultural water management has established such a proven track record of success in the Midwest. That’s a statistical fact. Farmers who utilize responsible water management systems are experiencing improved crop health, higher yields, more efficient use of chemicals, and increased productivity. Those advantages, in turn, have increased their profit margins, raised their land values, and strengthened their area tax base – not to mention made a significant contribution to our world’s food production.

My concern is that those advantages are being lost to the wide spread misuse of information and unfair media coverage of our industry.

Let me give you some examples:

IT IS A MISUNDERSTANDING THAT FARMERS DRAIN WETLANDS AT WILL: In South Dakota and the rest of the United States, it is not permissible to drain a wetland if you are in the farm program, which most farmers are or have been. That’s because on December 23,1985 Congress passed the Swampbuster provision of the Food Security Act. It banned the conversion of wetlands to cropland, punishable by loss of eligibility to many important USDA program benefits including loans, subsidies, crop insurance and price support programs… things that our farmers depend on heavily. It is only the small number of farmers who are NOT in or are LEAVING the farm program who are not bound by this legislation.

IT IS A MISUNDERSTANDING THAT TILING A FIELD IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: To get past this falsehood, it is critical that people take the time to better understand how tiling works and see the big picture. Agricultural water management IS environmentally friendly and IS an endorsed best practice by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS. Why? Because it can drastically reduce soil erosion, save valuable topsoil, and hold chemicals like phosphorous in the soil profile. Underground tile gives water somewhere to go, rather than remain standing in the fields and eventually wash away. It pulls the water down, through the soil, which triggers a natural filtering process and improves water quality. It also helps plants grow deeper, stronger roots, which in turn makes them more durable and productive.

IT IS A MISUNDERSTANDING THAT TILING HURTS THE LAND: That is simply not true. An investment in water management on the farm actually generates wealth for generations to come. Tiling good cropland only makes the land better because it generates higher yields, which gives landowners and farmers more income. This, in turn, increases land values…. AND when land values increase so does the tax base. Truth be told, much of our tax base in rural America comes from good farmland… income that has helped build schools, hospitals, roads and generally keep our rural way of life strong. It’s not a stretch to say that these hard earned rural amenities have been paid for by our farmers, who have spent the last 20 years fighting for their ability to make a living from land that has often been handed down from generation to generation.

The question we need to ask ourselves today is: Are we helping them? Or are we hurting them? Are we making it easier for our farmers… the world’s original environmentalists, some of the hardest working, most committed, most honorable business people in the Midwest… or harder for them? Are we helping them remain financially viable, keep these farms in their family and stay competitive in a global economy? Or are we making it more and more difficult? 
In reality, South Dakota farmers are a little behind the water management curve. They have not realized the benefits of tiling the way their Minnesota and Iowa neighbors have. Percentage-wise, they also have less “good” land at their disposal.
I ask you to consider this. Why are we getting in their way, now? Legislation like Bill 179 makes it even more difficult for South Dakota farmers to maximize the productivity of their very best land, getting in the way of their ability to improve yields, increase profits and realize greater land values. 
Prinsco has been a partner with the agriculture industry for over 35 years, through the good times and the lean times. We understand their challenges and have worked hard to play a role in their success. That’s why I am here. I encourage you to learn more about the benefits of water management and what it means to the success and viability of South Dakota farmers. Because when they succeed, we all benefit…. our environment benefits, our tax base benefits, our communities benefit and the over 7 billion hungry mouths throughout our world benefit. 
Thank you.

Categories: Agriculture