HURON – South Dakota is already leading the nation with its precision agriculture degree programs, and now with the help of private industries it is poised to build a state-of-the-art facility to house them at South Dakota State University, a District 22 legislator said.
Raven Industries is donating $5 million and other companies are stepping up and pledging to contribute as well, Rep. Roger Chase, R-Huron, said Saturday.
Agriculture practices have changed tremendously since he said he began farming 30 years ago.
SDSU offers a four-year degree and two minors in precision agriculture, the first land-grant university to do so, and now it will have a facility to replace a 60-year-old building.
Whether the rest of the funding can be identified by legislators this year, or this year and in 2019, Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, said he’s confident it will be done.
Legislators spoke on issues affecting Huron and the rest of the state at Saturday’s final Coffee with the Legislators forum of the session.
As he opened his remarks, Chase told the large audience that two of the 70 members of the House haven’t been in Pierre this winter.
Both are preachers and both are battling cancer, he said.
They are from both sides of the aisle and from each end of the state.
Rep. Karen Soli, D-Sioux Falls, and Rep. Sean McPherson, R-Rapid City, are on the minds and in the prayers of their fellow legislators each day, Chase said.
“It begins to be a little reflection on what’s important,” he said.
Meanwhile, White, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said there has been an upswing in sales tax numbers as the session has progressed.
There had been a concern in early January that there would be a shortage this year, said Rep. Bob Glanzer, R-Huron, who said legislators receive an update from the Appropriations Committee each day.
While it’s looking better, there are always a lot of places that money can be spent in Pierre, Glanzer said.
He said the Department of Agriculture brought legislation that cleans up outdated wording and pertaining to specific animals exibited at the State Fair.
Chase reminded the audience about remarks made by People’s Transit Executive Director Rose Lee at the first legislative coffee last month pertaining to funding needs of public transportation in Huron and across the state.
About a week later, a bill was introduced that would have eliminated the extra $25 fee assessed to people who want personalized license plates for cars and pickups and the extra $20 fee for motorcycles, with the funds earmarked for road and bridge improvements.
In committee, Chase said he did everything he could to try to kill the bill, but it passed by a 7-6 margin.
“When it made it to the House floor, I thought, ‘how can I make something good out of something bad?’” he said.
He attached an amendment to take the fee back to $25 for the road and bridge fund, but also to add another $10 fee that would go to public transportation in South Dakota.
It would have raised about $240,000 to $250,000, he said.
The bill failed, but Chase said at least something good came out of it.
“When you come and address us as legislators about your needs and your ideas, that’s sometimes where we get our ideas,” Chase said.
White said the streamlined sales tax issue has been discussed during this session.
The Appropriations Committee has filed a lawsuit to allow out-of-state internet retailers who don’t have a physical presence in the state to collect sales taxes. Amazon already collects the tax, but the state doesn’t have a firm figure on how much is being raised.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in April, White said.
“We do see this as a positive,” he said.
Glanzer talked about bills pertaining to home schoolers being able to play sports under the South Dakota High School Activities Association, and also about alcohol-related issues and sex trafficking.
He said his fellow legislators are “excellent, positive and influential” people.
“It’s an amazing process that we go through,” Glanzer said. “We have amazing people on that floor, with great wisdom.”
A standing room only audience defied the heavy snow Saturday morning to attend the Coffee with the Legislators at Huron’s City Hall. Huron resident Mark Smith speaks during Saturday’s Coffee with the Legislators.