South Dakota’s values and beliefs are rooted in our agricultural heritage and our boundless natural resources. Together they drive our economy, feed our families, and provide world class outdoor recreational opportunities. We all have a vested interest in protecting and preserving South Dakota’s agriculture and natural resources for our kids and grandkids.
In August, I announced my plan to merge the Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) into one department – the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). The goal is to better serve the citizens of South Dakota while taking advantage of synergies in state government.
I believe a diverse agricultural industry and a healthy environment are crucial to the health and well-being of our families. In fact, I know this firsthand, as a third generation farmer and rancher, and with an extended family where more of us farm than don’t. Along with Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, a rancher himself, South Dakota is the only state in the country led by a farmer-rancher duo who personally understand every facet of this industry. My passion for strengthening agriculture in this state, paired with smart conservation of our natural resources, is part of my DNA.
The new department will continue to implement South Dakota’s long-standing agriculture and environmental regulatory programs while taking advantage of opportunities for our producers, conservationists, and environmentalists to work together towards our common goal: protecting and preserving agriculture and natural resources. By having our agriculture and environmental experts in one department, we will achieve the best outcomes for South Dakota.
Agriculture, conservation, and natural resource protection go hand-in-hand, and this new structure streamlines these functions in one department. For example, DANR will have a Livestock Services Program managing CAFO permitting, inspections, manure management planning, and dairy and egg licensing. These functions used to be split between two departments. Now, we will have a one-stop shop for producers, providing consistent regulatory oversight and assistance with permitting, engineering, compliance, and waste management. It also allows us to cross-train inspectors and field staff, which would result in eliminating redundant inspections from multiple departments. By providing more effective and efficient services, we can help our producers focus less on government requirements and more on getting their work done.
We all know conservation is critical to successful agriculture and natural resource protection. It makes logical sense for SDDA Conservation staff to work with DENR’s Watershed Protection Program. Both programs provide on-the-ground resources for ag producers to protect our state’s environment. Also, by merging portions of the two agencies, we can create efficiencies and streamline the regulatory process. Combining inspectors and spill response resources from both departments makes DANR more responsive to environmental emergencies and complaints while also reducing redundancies.
Lastly, the merger will save taxpayers money. By reducing duplication of services, we can eliminate five full-time positions including a high-paying cabinet secretary position.
As you know, I’ve asked DENR Secretary Hunter Roberts to lead the new department. Hunter is a fifth generation South Dakota farmer and rancher. He loves South Dakota, understands the value of our natural resources, and knows our producers are the best conservationists.
This merger is good for South Dakota, our families, and our future. It puts us in the best position to protect and preserve our agriculture, environment, and natural resources, today and tomorrow.