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State ag secretary speaks at WEDC annual meeting

Posted: Monday, Mar 20th, 2017

Members of the Wessington Economic Development Corporation welcome S.D. Ag Secretary Mike Jaspers to the corporation’s annual meeting this past week. In the front, from the left are James Major, Sec. Jaspers and Vernetta LeGrand. Standing the the back are Ronald Runge, Mary Spicer, Donna Runge, Lana Dannenbring-Eichstadt, Jerold Zerfoss and Patricia Schilling. Not pictured is board member Duane Casavan. In the next photo, Mike Jaspers, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture, speaks at the WEDC annual meeting. PHOTOS COURTESY OF LD EICHSTADT

WESSINGTON — The Wessington Economic Development Corporation held its annual meeting on March 15, at the Sunshine Activity Center in Wessington.

Mike Jaspers, the state's Secretary of Agriculture, was the guest speaker for the event. Jaspers spoke about ag development, the S.D. State Fair and the overall current state of the ag economy.

Jaspers believes it is the family farm that is of greatest importance to the state and its economy. One way to keep family farms in business, according to Jaspers, is in raising livestock.

“I think livestock is very vital,” he said. “It also makes every other sector of the ag economy successful as well.”

As part of ag development, Jaspers encourages farmers to try a different crop, not common to the area, carinata.

“There might be potential for adding a new crop like carinata, a promising oilseed,“ said Jaspers. According to University of Florida researchers, carinata’s high oil content and favorable fatty acid profile make it especially suitable for the biofuel industry, especially as a biojet fuel. The research in Florida is being done in conjunction with Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., a crop company that has the world’s largest collection of carinata germplasm.

Carinata has been grown commercially for several years on the Canadian prairie as a summer crop. Commonly called “Ethiopian mustard,” it is native to the Ethiopian highlands. Applied Research Associates (ARA) approached the University of Florida this past August and said they had a U.S. Navy contract that required 200,000 gallons of biofuels and there’s no dockage because it’s not an edible oil.”

The Department of Ag also provides a county site analysis to assess the infrastructure, discover what possible beneficial changes may be made, and provide resources.

Jaspers also commented on the buffer strip bill that would encourage people to install buffer strips between agricultural land and waterways. It passed both chambers with bipartisan support last month, following a veto of a similar bill in 2016, and Governor Daugaard signed the bill into law March 8.

The bill offers property tax breaks for those who turn land into buffer strips of vegetation to help trap fertilizer, pesticide and sediment before they reach water.

Jaspers reported that the state legislature has approved funding proposals to enhance and update the Animal Disease Research & Diagnostic Laboratory (ADRDL). The state's only animal health laboratory was built in 1967 and updated in 1993; however, new upgrades and expansions are desperately needed in order to meet today's animal health, biosafety and environmental safety needs. Given the recent outbreak of tuberculosis in a beef cattle herd in the state, there is a sense of urgency to update the lab to improve the safety for the workers and enhance the technician's abilities to handle these emergencies as they arise.

“What can we do to help young farmers?” Jaspers inquired at the recent legislative session. “The financial stress for farmers is the worst it has been in a long time. Younger farmer programs with low interest rates are being offered.”

In response to a question, Jaspers replied that the average age of a farmer in South Dakota is 57 years of age. This information is based on the latest findings available in 2015.

Jaspers went on to explain that the agriculture economy is challenging, especially for young farmers. 2016 showed plenty of stress but he is optimistic that the tough times do not last and our future incudes many new ag careers.

“No matter where you live in South Dakota, when the ag economy suffers, the entire state suffers, "said Jaspers.

A native of northeast South Dakota, Jaspers operates a diversified crop and livestock farm in McCook, Hutchinson and Marshall counties. He received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanized Agriculture from South Dakota State University in 1993. In addition to operating his farm and holding management positions in several agricultural businesses, Jaspers served in the South Dakota State Legislature from 1997-2005. In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed him state director of USDA-Rural Development, where he served until June 2008. He grew up on a farm near Roslyn, SD, and is a relative of WEDC board member, Mary Spicer. Jaspers has been farming since he was a teenager; a fifth generation farmer. He was involved in FFA during high school and served as state president. Jaspers and his wife, Robin, have two children.

For the complete article see the 03-18-2017 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-18-2017 paper.

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