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Energy Solutions and Farm Bill Among Topics "Floated" at D-C Fly-In

September 10, 2008

Washington, DC – Farm producers from across the nation, including representatives from South Dakota, are in Washington this week for the annual "Farmers Union Fly-In."

South Dakota Farmers Union state president Doug Sombke says the Fly-In is an opportunity to acquaint policymakers with the challenges that family farmers and ranchers are facing across the country.

Among the key issues being discussed this week is the food versus fuel debate. Sombke says it's a myth that growing demand for biofuels has taken land out of food production and caused a decrease in the food supply.

"The renewable fuel standard has helped create enormous opportunities and enormous wealth in the state of South Dakota, not only to consumers but also our rural communities who have invested in ethanol. It's also kept the price of gas down by a minimum amount of 50 cents per gallon. So, to say that this is adding to the cost of food is very extreme."

Sombke is also hopeful lawmakers will hold the USDA accountable when they implement the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance Programs. He says it's crucial that farmers and ranchers who have suffered weather-related losses receive partial advance disaster payments.

"In South Dakota we have a few areas that have seen losses and there are many others across the nation dealt a similar blow; we just want to make sure that the USDA has the ability to educate the producers, inform them on what is available, and also provide them with funds, through the disaster program, for some advance payments into 2008 for the losses they have already suffered."

Kayla Talsma of Gregory and Ana Schweer of Watertown are also participating in the D.C. Fly-In this week. Schweer, who is a Dairy Production major at South Dakota State University, is hopeful that the Milk Income Loss Contract program payments will be implemented in the 2008 Farm Bill.

"Say farmers don't have a good milk price, because of rising feed costs. In that case the government can give them money so they can keep paying for their feed and keep milking. When I talk to my own parents about the program, they're happy that it's in the bill but clearly they don't want to have to use it. They want to be able to farm without having to have the government give them money."

More information on the Farmers Union is available on line at

David Law/Steve Powers, Public News Service - SD