Agriculture is the foundation of South Dakota's economy and our number one industry - by a significant margin. All in all, it contributes about $25.6 billion to the economy, so when ag prospers, South Dakota prospers. Of course, when droughts hit or markets slide, everyone feels that too.
As a lifelong farmer and rancher, I know the challenges that come with the business. I know the stress that comes when you take out loans, bury that money in the ground in the form of seed and fertilizer, and hope not only for a good yield, but for the right market conditions at the right time. It’s a tough business. But I understand why folks do it. It’s a special job to feed the world - to know that the product of your labor brings families together around a dinner table, to know that your work makes a real difference.
As governor, I’m utilizing my experience as a lifelong producer to advance agriculture in our state. From protecting property rights to expanding markets, my administration is committed to developing the state’s agricultural economy and give more young people the opportunity to thrive as farmers and ranchers in South Dakota.
This year, we transferred Ag Development Representatives from the Department of Agriculture to my office of economic development. This makes sense, because ag development is economic development. For years, these two departments have largely performed the same functions when it comes to ag development. This move consolidates resources and brainpower, supplies more tools for development, eliminates red tape, and creates a better approach to developing our largest industry.
Additionally, I am continuing to leverage my federal network to promote South Dakota ag. I continue to have conversations with President Trump, Secretary Sonny Perdue, and other ag leaders to keep South Dakota agriculture in the national spotlight - especially when it comes to trade. Farmers want trade, not aid. Producers don’t want federal bailouts. We crave expanded market opportunities. We need level playing fields. This has been a frequent conversation I’ve had with President Trump. I’m grateful for the outcomes we’ve seen as a result. In late 2018, I was glad to see the president’s support of farm country when he lifted restrictions on year-round E15, a move that will help consume another 2 billion bushels of corn, while potentially saving consumers up to 10 cents per gallon at the pump.
The state fleet is leading by example on prioritizing ethanol consumption. In my first few weeks as governor, I launched the process of transitioning the state vehicle fleet to E30, further maximizing the use of homegrown fuels and revolutionizing the way we fuel both our vehicles and our economy. I strongly believe South Dakota can be an example to the nation on emphasizing ethanol as a means toward bolstered market opportunities and energy independence.
I’m proud of our agriculture tradition in South Dakota. Our ag industry is special - it’s our legacy, our culture. We must do everything we can to ensure the ag economy is ready to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers.