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More than a rodeo: Black Hills Stock Show town hall highlights Farm Bill priorities

C.J. Keene
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Each member of South Dakota's DC delegation sent a representative to the town hall, moderated by Clay Birkeland (far right), senior VP and director of ag banking at Pioneer Bank and Trust. (L-R) Mike Haugen (Thune), Katie Murray (Johnson), and Michael Brooks (Rounds).

Unity in the cattle industry was the subject of a town hall event Tuesday at the Black Hills Stock Show.

In Rapid City’s Barnett Fieldhouse, D.C. representatives and nationwide cattle organizations said they’re prepared to work as one to benefit producers.

Michael Brooks is Senator Mike Rounds’ senior agriculture advisor. He said a Farm Bill year is the Super Bowl for the ag industry.

“It’s the most important piece of legislation effecting the agriculture industry," Brooks said. "There’s a lot of little things too, after one Farm Bill passes you have five years to assess how it goes. There’s tweaks to be made across all of the twelve titles of the bill.”

Along with representatives from D.C., three major cattle lobbies were present – the National Cattlemen’s Association, R-Calf, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

Justin Tupper is the president of the USCA. He said while differences of opinion remain, the long-term future of the industry is at stake.

“We’re never probably always going to agree, we’re humans, and cattle producers are very independent people, but I think there are key issues where this really needs to be the forefront," Tupper said. "We need to speak with one voice. The culture out there that every generation gets further away from ag, to make sure our story is heard, and make sure we are staying viable.”

On the ground ranchers are faced with challenges daily. Glen King owns a cow/calf operation in Meade County with about 800 head.

While a family operation, King said keeping the next generation involved is his biggest concern.

“There’s interest from the youth. I think that is something that’s maybe over-exaggerated, there is interest," King said. "But the ability for a young man to come home and work on his parents place, the ability for a young man for a young man who doesn’t go to his parents place but to buy other ranches – that’s the big concern.”

Other issues like country-of-origin labeling, branding, and climate change were also addressed.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.