Nearly all of South Dakota's farm and commodity groups got together in advance of the recent Governor's Summit on Ag Development and came up with the following list of action items for ag development in the state:
- Improve farm to market transportation infrastructure. South Dakota produces lots of grain and cattle, but most have to shipped out of state for processing. The ag products made in the state – ethanol, distillers grains and cheese – are shipped to markets out of state. Farm to market roads and railroads are extremely important to future ag development. The state especially needs more access to ports that serve Asian countries.
- Increase livestock production and processing. With the abundance of feedstocks in South Dakota, more cattle and hogs could be fed and processed in the state. More dairy cows could be milked in the state.
- Solve water problems. Flooding and lack of field drainage is reducing crop production in some areas. There's a backlog of drain tile applications in many counties.
- Get more young people involved in agriculture on the farm and in related industries. Agriculture needs youth to be involved in farms and related businesses to assure its continued growth.
- Improve local zoning laws so farms can grow. Agriculture is the state's No. 1 industry, but zoning laws sometimes limit expansion, even when projects would meet environmental regulations.
- Increase value-added agriculture. There are many opportunities to add value to what is grown and raised in South Dakota. The state's certified beef program is one example.
- Boost public acceptance of agriculture. Consumers and voters need to hear agriculture's story and support farmers when issues arise.
Though the groups represented at the ag development roundup have their own goals and agendas, "this action list is what unites us," said Walt Bones, South Dakota secretary of agriculture. He said the department would use the list to guides its ag development work in the coming year.
The roundtable will likely meet again before the 2012 Governor's Ag Development Summit and assess progress being made and re-evaluate the priority list, Bones said.