Dakota Rural ActionDakota Rural Action http://dakotarural.org Grassroots Organizing for the Future Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:16:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 How the grassroots work http://dakotarural.org/how-the-grassroots-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-the-grassroots-work http://dakotarural.org/how-the-grassroots-work/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:53:14 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=4089 It’s always good to check in and remind folks why we do what we do – so without further ado, here’s a great overview of Dakota Rural Action.

From Board Chair Paul Seamans and Black Hills Chapter Secretary Gena Parkhurst:

The past few years has seen Dakota Rural Action garnering a higher profile across the entire state. With this increased awareness of our presence comes the question of who is DRA, and what do we stand for? It might help to know why we came into being.

Over 26 years ago DRA was started in the rural areas of eastern South Dakota in response to the 1980’s farm crisis. The cause of the crisis was drastically lower commodity prices along with dramatically higher interest rates (interest went from 7% to over 20% in very short order). From our modest start DRA has grown to over 500 memberships in six chapters across the state, with a main office in Brookings and a West River office in Rapid City.

Today, DRA continues to work on issues important to farmers and ranchers but we have become so much more. We work extensively on the many issues associated with local foods and we have had great success in our beginning farmer program. We have a member committee involved in promoting renewable energy and other member groups promoting urban chickens and still others working on revising the states raw milk laws.

Of major concern to our members is the protection of our environment. The protection of our natural resources is very important to us with the protection of our water being the most important. DRA is allied with the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance to protect our water from uranium mining in the Black Hills and we have allied with our native friends and neighbors in our quest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.  DRA has no history of working on issues of a social nature. DRA’s membership hasn’t expressed the desire, nor does it have the resources, to address most social issues. DRA feels these issues are best left to individual members to resolve according to their own conscience.

DRA is a membership driven group…meaning the issues we work on are chosen by members. We use the consensus model, to achieve common ground. The consensus model creates strength by unifiying members who then drive our work.

DRA empowers members to get involved with government. DRA employs an organizer who serves as a part-time lobbyist in Pierre during the legislative session. Her role is to work with members to get them to feel comfortable when speaking with legislators directly, and to keep members informed of happenings in Pierre.

DRA’s empowerment of members extends far outside of the group: several membersare running for state and local elected office. Many members have had success when getting involved with community issues.

In spite of the predominance of bad news in the headlines, Dakota Rural Action empowers people who care to make a difference!

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Farm Bill Passes; Protects COOL, Livestock Provisions, Farm Beginnings http://dakotarural.org/2014-farm-bill-passes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2014-farm-bill-passes http://dakotarural.org/2014-farm-bill-passes/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 20:36:41 +0000 holly.byrne http://dakotarural.org/?p=4066 The US Legislature passed the Farm Bill earlier this week, and Dakota Rural Action (DRA) is taking time to thank state officials for their leadership in the protection of County of Origin Labeling (COOL) and rolling back limitations to the USDA’s authority to address certain business practices of meatpackers.  Protecting these provisions in the Farm Bill is seen as a big win for South Dakota ranchers.

“Dakota Rural Action members have worked closely with our congressional delegation to secure Country of Origin Labeling and stronger enforcement capabilities of the Packers & Stockyards Act as far back as the 2002 Farm Bill,” explained SD Rancher and DRA Member Holly Waddell of Shadehill, SD.  “These two pieces of agricultural policy offer great benefit for independent meat producers.  They also help guarantee food sovereignty and security for the United States of America.”

South Dakota’s Senators Johnson and Thune and Representative Noem all acted as leaders on these issues.

“Our ranchers will benefit significantly from this bill,” said Sen. Johnson. “Not only does this compromise enable Country of Origin Labeling to continue as well as maintain USDA’s ability to ensure a fair and transparent marketplace, but it also contains critical livestock disaster assistance programs to help ranchers in my State who are still recovering from the 2012 drought and last year’s terrible blizzard.”

“I commend Senators Johnson and Thune and Representative Noem for their perseverance in defending these important pieces in the 2014 Farm Bill,” said Waddell.

In additions to wins on COOL and Livestock Provisions, beginning SD farmers and ranchers will also see support from the Farm Bill. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) will be fully funded in order to support programs like the Farm Beginnings Program offered by DRA.  The Farm Bill also took some steps to improve a beginning farmer’s access to land.

While the bill did include many wins, there were also some disappointments.

The final bill eliminated reforms to the commodity program subsidies which had passed in both chambers of Congress.  By increasing the subsidy limit and leaving in certain loopholes wealthy farms will be able to collect many times the current payment limit.

SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), a program which provides individuals and families in need with access to food, will be cut by $8.6 billion.

For more information about the work being done at Dakota Rural Action visit www.dakotarural.org or call 605-697-5204.

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Dakota Rural Voices – Raw Milk in South Dakota http://dakotarural.org/dakota-rural-voices-raw-milk-in-south-dakota/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dakota-rural-voices-raw-milk-in-south-dakota http://dakotarural.org/dakota-rural-voices-raw-milk-in-south-dakota/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 15:34:12 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=4064

Check out this episode

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Dakota Rural Voices – Protect Our Water http://dakotarural.org/dakota-rural-voices-protect-our-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dakota-rural-voices-protect-our-water http://dakotarural.org/dakota-rural-voices-protect-our-water/#comments Sun, 09 Feb 2014 19:11:30 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=4063

Hear about South Dakota’s HB 1193, an act to protect our water from in situ leach uranium mining, and learn about how things are not always as they seem when it comes to the so-called financial benefits of uranium mines.

Check out this episode

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Member Letter: Weakening Mining Laws Is Hazardous http://dakotarural.org/member-letter-weakening-mining-laws-is-hazardous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=member-letter-weakening-mining-laws-is-hazardous http://dakotarural.org/member-letter-weakening-mining-laws-is-hazardous/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 21:26:06 +0000 Jillian Anawaty http://dakotarural.org/?p=4058 Since the start of the Black Hills Chapter campaign to stop uranium mining in the Black Hills, many members have submitted letters to the editor which have been printed across the state. Here is one of the more recent with thoughts from one of our West River ranchers:

As I read the article about the GOP change to the Superfund
law in the U.S. House of Representatives, I thought of 
the uranium issue here at home. Rep. Kristi Noem voted to scale
back federal superfund law by shifting some enforcement
authority to states. The bill (HR2279) eases requirements on companies
to obtain insurance to pay for cleaning up their own toxic 

Our state Legislature, upon lobbying by Powertech officials,
stripped the state of authority to regulate uranium mining and
underground water contamination in South Dakota. So, who’s
going to regulate and monitor contamination of our land and
water? Powertech? And who’s going to enforce weakened
regulations still in place?

Just days ago, a hazardous chemical leaked from a coal 
processing plant into a West Virginia water supply. The
offending company did not report the leak that left a sixth
of that state’s population without drinkable tap water.
Powertech is requesting exemption from the Safe
Drinking Water Act to dispose of mining waste in our underground
aquifers. Wow!

The surest way to prevent radioactive contamination of
our South Dakota land and water is to stop uranium mining

We don’t want it. Our country doesn’t need it. 
— Laurie Barnaud, Nisland

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Distributed Generation, Solar Panels Away! http://dakotarural.org/distributed-generation-solar-panels-away/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=distributed-generation-solar-panels-away http://dakotarural.org/distributed-generation-solar-panels-away/#comments Mon, 20 Jan 2014 04:42:10 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=4056

What’s happening in the world of solar energy in South Dakota? Listen to DRA members Steve and Lynn Hammond talk about their week in the capital trying to get energy producers a fair rate for their kilowatts.

Check out this episode

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Powertech Nears Chinese Ownership http://dakotarural.org/powertech-nears-chinese-ownership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=powertech-nears-chinese-ownership http://dakotarural.org/powertech-nears-chinese-ownership/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 21:11:08 +0000 Jillian Anawaty http://dakotarural.org/?p=4034 In the last few weeks, Azarga Resources Limited, a Hong Kong investment firm, has neared half ownership of Powertech Uranium. With Azarga’s purchase of shares of Powertech stock from the Belgian firm Synatom, Azarga reached 45.1% ownership of Powertech. Powertech’s offices in Canada and New Mexico will be closed, and two Canadian board members will be replaced.

In addition to its current ownership, Azarga has loaned Powertech $3.6 million. Under an agreement between the companies, the Chinese firm can convert this loan to shares of stock, if Powertech doesn’t pay them back by July 22, 2014. If this conversion occurs, Powertech will become a Chinese company with Azarga owning 47.6% of the company.

China is one of the fastest-growing markets for uranium and hopes to expand its use of nuclear power. Russia and India are the other two largest markets for uranium. All three countries have both nuclear power and nuclear weapons programs. “I think that the likelihood that Powertech will become owned by a company from the United States’ largest rival should raise additional concerns about uranium mining restarting in the Black Hills,” according to Lilias Jarding of the Clean Water Alliance. “As Black Hills residents, we don’t want contribute to China’s nuclear program.”

Black Hills Chapter member, Cheryl Rowe, offers us this bit of comedic relief. This drawing is a few months old now, China has moved up the flag pole. :)

Black Hills Chapter member, Cheryl Rowe, offers us this bit of comedic relief. This drawing is a few months old now, China has moved up the flag pole. :)

“We have enough uranium resources to meet the United States’ needs into the 2020’s,” adds Clay Uptain, President of the Black Hills Chapter of Dakota Rural Action. “We don’t need more uranium here, so it’s logical that uranium mined here would end up somewhere else. We would be left with contaminated water, while a Chinese company could gain the profits from the mining. I don’t want to see this happen.”

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December Chapter Updates http://dakotarural.org/dec-chapter-updates/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dec-chapter-updates http://dakotarural.org/dec-chapter-updates/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 04:19:22 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=4020 Check out what our chapters have been up to for the past couple months.



The Black Hills Chapter continues to actively oppose Powertech’s proposed uranium mining. Before the second week of the Large Scale Mine permit hearings, the hearing Chair, Rex Hagg, made a public announcement of their decision to postpone the hearings and not make a decision until all of the other permitting agencies either granted/denied their permits. The hearings for Powertech’s water and groundwater discharge plan have also been postponed.
In the mean time, we’ve continued working with our allies to grow opposition and power, gather signatures on our petitions, and follow the unfolding of this extensive process to help secure the future of clean water. On the note of allies, the South Dakota Medical Association signed onto a petition the chapter has specifically for medical professionals opposing ISL uranium mining for it’s inherent health risks – and that says quite a lot.
The chapter has also decided to bring focus to Ag Land Preservation in the Black Hills as Spearfish Valley (historically some of the richest farmland in West River), is fighting against annexation. There will be a public vote on December 10th for Spearfish city and valley residents to overturn the Council’s vote to annex. After the vote and moving into 2014, members plan to develop a new agricultural land preservation campaign to help secure land for the future of local food production.



Members from the Brookings County Chapter recently attended a City Council Study Session regarding backyard chickens. Representatives were able to give a presentation to the council members which included information about how to raise backyard birds, benefits of owning a small flock in town, and specific requests from the chapter. The request include rules like a limit of 6 hens, no rooster, a 25 foot buffer zone between coops and neighboring homes, and no chickens roaming at large to name a few. The Brookings Sustainability Council and the Brookings Planning and Zoning Committee also gave recommendations and the Study Session. The Sustainability Committee’s recommendation was very similar to that of the DRA chapter, while Planning and Zoning recommended keeping the ordinance as it is.
The City Council plans on adding the issue to a future meeting, possibly on January 14, to take public comment and decide how to move forward. There was some indication that they would then draft a new ordinance and hold the first reading at a second meeting.
The Chapter also held a viewing of Mad City Chickens, a documentary focusing on backyard hens. The viewing had great attendance and included a wonderful discussion. The chapter is considering hosting a second viewing in the City Building, if possible, and will encourage City Council Members to attend.



Homegrown Sioux Falls met on Nov. 14 to discuss their Big Sioux River clean-up campaign. Dana Loseke from the Sierra Club was in attendance and gave a presentation on how Sierra Club is also focusing on river clean-up and is seeking input and collaboration from other groups in order to build a coalition that will work with the city on clean-up organizing. The chapter decided to join forces and will be meeting with some of the leadership from Sierra Club at the next meeting. DRA has been registered as a Water Summit Stakeholder with the City of Sioux Falls and plans to be involved in working with the City on their short and long-term planning for river clean-up. Chapter members decided their first action is to ask the City to place signs up around the river stating that the river is not rated as immersible and that being in the water is hazardous to health. Sioux Falls DRA members are encouraged to attend the chapter’s next meeting.

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5 Years and Going Strong http://dakotarural.org/5-years-and-going-strong/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=5-years-and-going-strong http://dakotarural.org/5-years-and-going-strong/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 02:37:30 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=4015 Newest  Farm Beginnings Class Finds Strong Support and Increased Demand

FB Do you Want to Farm

DRA kicked off its 5th year of Farm Beginnings classes on Nov. 23rd in Rapid City, marking the first year the program has ever been offered in western South Dakota. This year’s class has record enrollment with fifteen families participating. Members and staff raised nearly $9,000 this year in scholarship funding and program support, another record, most of which was awarded to families requesting help in offsetting tuition costs. This amount included two scholarships offered by the Farmer Veteran Coalition to veterans applying for scholarship this year. Although our fundraising exceeded our goal, the number of families requesting scholarships exceeded the amount raised and so we are still looking to fundraise about $1200 to cover the full scholarship fund.


Farm Beginnings has seen strong fundraising support since its inception. In the past five years the Leadership Team has raised  $31,000 in grassroots funds for student scholarships and program support for the Farm Beginnings class. This money has been contributed entirely by community organizations, businesses, and individuals


Including the students enrolled this year, the DRA Farm Beginnings program has served 49 families since launching in 2009. The course has been held two years in Brookings, two years in Sioux Falls, and now once in Rapid City. Last spring DRA took a survey of all graduates from the first four years of classes and found that 88% of graduates report they have engaged in farming activities since taking the class, with only 30% reporting that were involved before taking the class.


There are around 20 local farmers and ag professionals who participate in helping to teach the Farm Beginnings classes. These classes focus on Whole Farm Planning, Business Planning, Financial Planning, Marketing, Connecting with Resources, and Connecting with Mentors. Farm Beginnings offers 44 hours of in-class instruction and is followed up by on-farm experiences such as tours, skills sessions, and internships.

The class is overseen by a Leadership Team made up of farmer-mentors and course graduates. The class is linked closely with the Farmer Network, which provides opportunities for mentorship between beginning and established farmers as well as provides on-farm education opportunities such as farm tours and skills sessions.


DRA works closely with the Farm Beginnings Collaborative, a national alliance of independent regional groups of farmers and farmer-training support organizations who work together to promote Farm Beginnings. Currently DRA is contributing to this effort by working to organize continuing education for all Farm Beginnings course facilitators by developing workshops where facilitators can develop best practices, troubleshoot issues, and share curriculum.


The course is currently supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Develop Program (BFRDP) through the USDA. The BFRDP is one of the stranded programs in the Farm Bill and the DRA is seeking new funding sources for the program beginning next August.

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Urge PUC to Draft Avoided Cost Rules http://dakotarural.org/urge-puc-to-draft-avoided-cost-rules/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urge-puc-to-draft-avoided-cost-rules http://dakotarural.org/urge-puc-to-draft-avoided-cost-rules/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 21:16:59 +0000 admin http://dakotarural.org/?p=3998 ACTION ALERT
Support Small Independent Renewable Energy Producers in SD

Kelleys Off Grid Home-web
The South Dakota Public Utility Commission is requesting public comments on whether or not they should draft rules regarding “Avoided Costs” for electricity purchased by Utilities by facilities that can include small renewable energy owned by individuals.
We urge you to write the PUC and express your support for rule making today. It can be as simple as the comment below:
“I am writing in favor of the SD PUC making rules for avoided costs as they impact small independently owned distributed generation renewable energy facilities.”


Submit comments to:

Karen Cremer, karen.cremer@state.sd.us,
and/or physically mailed to the PUC at
Public Utilities Commission
Capitol Building, 1st floor
500 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501-5070



“The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) was passed in 1978. One of the most important effects of the law was to create a market for power from non-utility power producers, which now provide 7 percent of the country’s power. Before PURPA, only utilities could own and operate electric generating plants. PURPA required utilities to buy power from independent companies that could produce power for less than what it would have cost for the utility to generate the power, called the “avoided cost.” From Union of Concerned Scientists.
In their discussion, the SD PUC has many questions regarding writing the rules around avoided costs, starting with if their rule would impact small distributed generating renewable facilities or restricting larger facilities.
Largely the Commission is interested in input from people about if this is something they should move forward with. If they open the rulemaking, there will be additional opportunities to comment on the areas they should address and what the rule should do.
For more background information go to the PUC website on this issue.

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