Billion's visit to Ft. Pierre to talk about ag

As I had mentioned before, tonight I went over to Ft. Pierre after work to hear Jack Billion's spiel since it was a political speech, and I had nothing better to do at the moment.

Actually, It gave me a chance to meet Capitol Journal reporter Kate Turnbow in person, and to chat with KCCR's Tony Mangan. Otherwise, for a gubernatorial candidate speech, there didn't seem to be much media in attendance.

When a "pretend-m..." Er.. let's just say I'm a representative of the "new media." When a member of the "new media" constitutes 1/3 of the media representation, that seems pretty skinny for media coverage.

The big reason for this event was Jack pushing his agricultural platform, which you can read as follows (click on the picture to enlarge):

(click to enlarge)

As you can see, his platform consists of 11 points: Enforcing SD's Country of Origin Labeling, property tax relief for drought victims, filing a state drought plan with the National Drought Mitigation Center, removing "political manipulation" of the Brand Board, Re-establishing an ag marketing office, putting certified beef on a fast track, etcetera and so on.

It seemed the big thing he was touting this evening as his "gotcha" point against Governor Rounds was the following e-mail regarding the fact that South Dakota hadn't updated a drought plan since the 1980's with the National Drought Mitigation Center.

(click to enlarge)

Now, I'm sure South Dakota filing a plan with the National Drought Mitigation Center is important to it's director, Dr. Donald Wilhite. But I'm trying to figure out who else really cares.

I mean, really. How will the updating and filing of a plan alleviate South Dakota's drought? The key in this document was the statement by Dr. Wilhite where he says:
Almost all states with drought plans (there are currently 38) have followed the 10-step drought planning process that I developed to generate their plans.
Damn us. He founded it. He directs it. He developed the planning process. Now, how dare South Dakota not update their plan....


Like I said, I'm sure South Dakota filing a plan with the National Drought Mitigation Center is important to it's director, Dr. Donald Wilhite. But I'm lacking any understanding how this represents a crisis in South Dakota government. So, would it be nice to update? Yes. Is it an oversight of any consequence whatsoever? I don't see it.

We're better off spending our time seeking recognition from the Federal Government that the drought represents a serious condition that is on par with any of the disasters they prefer to pay attention to. In other words, the Secretary of the Dept of ag visiting and viewing the extent of the drought will do more to promote federal recognition of the extent of the drought, and possible alleviations for farmers than filling out Dr. Wilhite's document.

So, this one was lost on me.

Much of this 11 point plan was formulated by Dr. Billion's Ag & Rural Development Committee:

(click to enlarge)

Otherwise you can just term this group as the Democrats who are either in office, will be running for office, or gave it their shot a long time ago. Bob Thullner? Former legislative candidate. Rick Riggle? I think he ran against Rounds once. Sam Nachtigal - wasn't he the legislature's sheepherder?

Actually it's pretty good kitchen cabinet if you're a Dem. There are a lot of people who have politically been around the block. I see much more ag in this group than I do rural development. If I were Billion, I think I would have included an economist or two, and possibly some Republicans.

What major points did I take away form the speech and the Q&A that followed? Here are some of the major highlights that I noted he touched on:
  • Property tax relief for drought stricken farmers
  • COOL
  • Drought
  • Marketing what the state has to offer
  • Use of internet to allow SD companies to participate in a global economy
  • Policy directives to use more ethanol in the state fleet
  • More research
  • Build infrastructure
  • And he seems to agree that we're proceeding properly on Homestake.
So, aside from robbing the emergency funds to provide the property tax relief, and the state COOL (which without looking, I suspect would be found to violate the interstate commerce clause, whereas a national one would not)....

I'm not seeing him say anything terribly different than what Governor Rounds has already done, or is pushing to do. The Gov is working on drought relief, he's marketing SD and promoting our place in a global economy, he's already directed the state fleet to use more ethanol without Jack's prodding, and research has long been a priority. Etcetera and so on.

In other words, it seems he saying "elect me because I want to do all of this" while our current Governor is already doing it.

That's not intended to be completely partisan and snarky, but actually constructive criticism. I'm not really hearing a lot of where he differentiates himself from the current adminstration. He can say he wants a policy directive that more ethanol will be used by state vehicles, but all that does is open the door for the Governor to counter "We've already done that. Aren't you paying attention?"

For Billion to make some headway, I think he needs to focus on areas where there are clear differences, as opposed to areas where it's a matter of splitting hairs. Because from what I saw tonight, it's not a difference of apples and oranges. Right now, it seems it's a difference between granny smiths and galas. Both are still an apple, but only a slightly different.


Anonymous said…
I have wondered where Billion has been getting his ideas for ag policy and while there are a few good people on his committee such as Symens, Duxbury, and Halverson, it's no wonder he is so misguided.
Let's start with the claim that SD should start enforcing COOL. PP is correct that there are interstate commerce clause issues. While Billion points out the then Attny. Gen. Bill Janklow said his review passed the constitutional test and therefor should be enforced, he mentions nothing of the fact that several states tried this same legislation back in the 60's and 70's and was struck down by the courts as a violation of the interstate commerce clause.
He mentions that other states have passed similiar legislation recently like Montanta. After reviewing their legislation, it's pretty weak because unless the grocer can verify the origin, it has to be labeled "unknown." What is important to know about COOL is the meat has to be born, raised, and processed in the US. The local butcher who has a relationship with area producers can't even guarantee that, much less a grocer who has a national supplier. If any part of the meat can't be verified of US origin, the grocer will be guilty of a misdemeanor! I would like to hear from our local grocers on what they think of the Billion plan to enforce COOL.
Property Tax releif is really a nonstarter. Billion doesn't explain that over 40% of the land in this state is owned by absentee landowners that either don't live in this state or don't farm. Are those famers who rent or share crop just SOL, or will he just engage in doling out direct payments to producers who prove the acres they farm. Given the amount of money he estimates it will cost the state, I can only guess that any tax relief received by producers will only accomplish 2 things: producers will have enough to go buy a new muffler for their tractor and in the meantime, drain the state reserves.
As far as putting SD certified beef on the fast track, short of the state building it's own processing facility, everything is being done that can be. The state is helping individuals and businesses as much as possible to get processing facilities up and going. We should leave the entrepreneurship to individuals, not government.
As far as establishing an "Ag Marketing Office", apparently Billion refuses to recognize the state already offers that service. We don't call it the Ag Marketing Office because we integrated it with Dept. of Ag and GOED. Must we name an office for every function the state provides?
I could keep going but this post is already way too long.
Anonymous said…
Rounds has really dragged his feet on forcing the state fleet to use ethanol. He's been prodded again and again by Democrats to mandate e-85 or at least 10% and he just hasn't done it, at least not until recently.

You know, not everything requires a time consuming transition. Some things can just be done if you have the will to do them.

When the Rounds brothers wanted to open a distillery they all worked together and got it done. Now how about applying some of that effort to the rest of our problems.

We have a small gun making "cluster" of businesses in the Sturgis area. Why haven't we recruited all of the big national manufacturers to the area like we did with credit card operations in SF?

Why are we last in the nation among states in the area of industry partnering with higher education for research purposes?

Why do we have 5 of the 10 poorest counties in the nation?

Rounds has had 4 years to solve some of our problems but he has chosen to be a caretaker governor rather than a visionary governor. He has a new plane, a new mansion and a distillery for his brothers, but nothing else to speak of that wouldn't have happened anyway regardless of who was governor. Time to elect Billion, because at least he offers us the hope of something better.

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