HURON — After her announcement of the Community Resource Fund, and how it relates to Heartland region towns and counties on Wednesday, Governor Kristi Noem took time to speak to some other issues - things not directly COVID related - for a change of pace.
In her address to the city, county, and task force staff present in the room Wednesday, Noem discussed the South Dakota State Fair, and her words were very clear.
“The State Fair will look very different this year than it has in the past,” Noem stated. “It is important to this state. It is important to this community, but I have directed the Department of Agriculture to take measures to make it look different and to protect public health.”
Noem reiterated her point later, stating that despite changes, she and her family intend to visit the fair this summer:
“Our family is always at the fair! I spent years coming to show livestock and camping each year at the fair, so it’s an annual event for us. The reason it’s important to me that we have the fair is what it means to this community and to the state.”
“We also have a year where nearly every activity for kids has been called off, so it’s a unique opportunity for us to market 4-H and to allow these kids to come and display their projects. We can do this in a way that can protect with social distancing,” Noem stated. “The midway will look different. The vendors will look different. This may give us the opportunity to be innovative and potentially help the Fair be more successful 10-20 years from now.”
The governor stated that her office has been working with the Department of Education to consider how to approach the school year. “We have gone through a lot of planning to plan for this fall when kids go back into school buildings,” Noem reported. “Giving school districts a lot of flexibility, because each school building is different in size and staff, is important.”
Noem is interested in the potential in Huron and the surrounding areas to help promote agriculture in the state. She mentioned that while current plants are predominantly regulated by federal regulations, but expansion of plants to allow for better opportunities for local farmers would be something that she would support if proposed in legislation in the next session.
She also discussed the possibility of a new beef processing facility in Huron and that there is a trend in the state in that area. “We currently have 13 new processing facilities going up in South Dakota right now. These are attracting private investors, primarily due to the difference between farmers and packers that were really exposed in COVID-19.”
Asked if legislation could assist with further expansion of new local processing, Noem was less hopeful. “While it’s possible, it’s hard to stand up a state program for an industry that is cash flow, and meat processing has been doing very well,” Noem commented. “Now, if they need us to streamline the process and help them connect investors to people who want to run the facilities? That may be something we can put together.”
Asked if there was one thing that she would have changed about the response to COVID-19 in the state, Gov. Noem stated clearly that lack of knowledge hamstrung the response in the state.
“We just didn’t know. And we’re not a state like California or New York, so we had to fight to get the supplies we needed. We have steady access to supplies now, but we struggled right away.”