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"Cooperating" on South Dakota's Behalf

February 9, 2007

Members of the South Dakota Farmers Union are gathering in Huron this weekend for their annual convention, and topping the agenda is the future of the state's cooperative movement. Julie Bartling with the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation says cooperatives are a crucial part of the state's economy, but many people take them for granted. She says that's why her group is working to promote the benefits of cooperatives to young people at summer camps across the state this summer.

"If we can talk to the kids when they start as a little youngster coming into the camp all the way up through our state camp, these kids truly know the benefit of working together and how our state can survive if we all pull together. And that's the nature of cooperatives; investor owned and investor utilized."

Bartling says the state needs to stay focused on the importance of cooperatives and what they do for producers.

"It's so important in the ever-changing environment that agriculture is in from market prices to the cost of input to manage their skills and keep their operations viable."

Bartling adds a key component of the cooperative movement is revitalization and innovation.

"Those go hand-in-hand. If we can be innovative in our management skills and what we can invest in, not only financially but with our own personal skills, we can revitalize South Dakota's rural economy. It's really important to all work together, and we're going to make it with these kids, no doubt."

The foundation is hoping to raise public awareness and support for ethanol and renewable energy resources. A fundraiser Saturday night, called "Night on the Prairie," will benefit the cooperative education activities for all students in South Dakota, from elementary school through college. The event includes a silent and live auction as well as guest speakers Jim Woster and Tyler Marshall.

David Law/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - SD