Farmer and rancher members of South Dakota Farm Bureau met in Pierre on Nov. 22-23 for the organization’s 96th annual meeting, deciding on state and national policy positions for the upcoming year.

“Farm Bureau is proud of its grassroots policy-making process, where all issues and ideas start at the local County level with the farmers and ranchers,” said Wanda Blair, Vice President of the organization and a rancher from Vale, S.D. “We had a productive delegate session with lots of excellent discussion from farmers and ranchers of all ages, from all across the state.”

The longest discussion this year was on the issue of animal cruelty and how state laws should address the definition of mistreatment and the penalties for it. It is not uncommon for animal activist groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to come in to states and push ballot initiatives on this subject. Farm Bureau wants to be prepared with a sound and agriculturally-supported position should a ballot initiative present itself, instead of being caught by surprise and having an activist group direct the conversation.

Another key issue was defining “flooded private land” and the acceptable uses for it. This issue came up in the last Legislative Session, and will be brought up again this year. South Dakota Farm Bureau member-written policy states that there shall be no access to flooded private land without permission from the landowner or operator. This was clarified, however, to explain that “flooded private land” does not include any land under current meandered lakes that have been surveyed and that do have public access.

A third key issue discussed by Farm Bureau members was developing a usable risk-management tool for livestock forages and grass, to give livestock producers risk protections more similar to those in place on the crop side of agriculture.

South Dakota Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general agriculture organization, representing more than 13,000 farm, ranch and rural families across the state.