According to state Ag Department dairy development specialist David Skaggs, 23 of those operators are foreign transplants lured here by the state with promises of low regulation, immigration assistance, and other government favors. Those 23 foreign transplants control 20,350 head of dairy cattle.
In other words, our state-favored foreign recruits make up 6% of operators but control 23% of the herd.
Not included in the numbers provided by the state Ag Department is the percentage of jobs in all of our big dairies, foreign and domestic, that are held by non-resident workers who send a large chunk of their wages out of state.
Skaggs tells David Rookhuyzen of the Pierre Capital Journal that the main reason foreign dairy operators buy our sales pitch is that "there is so much available land" [Rookhyzen's words] compared to Europe.
Please pardon the young farmer next to you as he spits his coffee at the newspaper. "Available" is obviously a relative term; even Senator John Thune recognizes that our high land prices (which are driven higher by recruiting big foreign operators) price young South Dakotans who want to get into farming out of the business:
Speaking to about 150 people at an Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee luncheon at the Ramkota Convention Center, Thune said there's no good solution to the problem of increasing land prices. He noted that land in the Groton area recently sold for more than $13,000 an acre. With a cost that high, it's pretty hard for a guy just getting into agriculture to make things pencil out.
Doug Sombke, who lives in the Conde area, agrees. He said he has three sons who would like to start farming. But even with the help of U.S. Department of Agriculture programs to assist young farmers, they couldn't afford to buy 80 acres.
Duane Riedel of Aberdeen asked if there was a way to get some of the agland owned by out-of-state residents who have never been to South Dakota to see property they own into the hands of young, local farmers. Thune said that seems unlikely.
Considering that the state's ag population is aging, it would be wise to encourage younger producers to get into the industry, Thune said. But land prices are prohibitive, he said [Scott Waltman, "Thune: High Land Prices Might Deter Would-Be Farmers in South Dakota," Aberdeen American News, 2013.01.11].
Money talks, young South Dakota farmers walk... right out of an industry dominated by state-favored big operators.