Rep. Kristi Noem has long touted big government in the form of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. Her latest press release on the long-delayed project celebrates spending almost three times more on Lewis and Clark than socialist redistributionist President Obama proposed.

Why would Rep. Noem and the rest of South Dakota's Congressional delegation work so hard to spend more money than President Obama and pump more water up the I-29 corridor? Perhaps Lewis and Clark is one more prop in South Dakota's push for more megadairies:

At the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, more than a half dozen states—Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Nevada—have booths to recruit milk producers.

"Increasingly every year, there are more states showing up at the World Ag Expo to entice California dairies to move to their states, and they're finding a receptive audience," said Joel Karlin, a commodity manager and market analyst for Western Milling, a large agricultural livestock feed manufacturer exhibiting at the show. "California has been losing cows to other states such as Idaho, Texas and New Mexico—and now a lot of operators are looking at the Midwest more favorably since feed is cheaper, labor is cheaper and water is more plentiful" ["States Dangle Water to Tempt California Dairy Farmers," NBC News, 2015.02.10].

One dairy Holstein may drink 25 to 30 gallons of water per day.


The South Dakota Department of Agriculture keeps harshing raw milk producers' mellow. SD-DOA sends the Legislature Senate Bill 45. For the most part, SB 45 appears to be clarifying definitions and rules. However, Section 3 includes this rewording:

Section 3. That § 39-6-3 be amended to read as follows:
39-6-3. The provisions of § 39-6-2 do not apply to milk or goat milk Raw milk for human consumption may besecured or purchased for personal use by any consumer at the place or farm where the milk is produced or to any active farm producer of milk, selling and delivering the producer's own production direct to consumers only, if the place or farm where the milk is produced has a license or permit issued by the department pursuant to § 40-32-4 or 40-32-10.1. The containers in which any unpasteurized milk is sold shall be clearly labeled by the producer as "raw milk." the milk may be delivered directly to the consumer by the producer. No raw milk for human consumption may be secured or purchased at a farmers' market or farmer owned retail store that is not located at the place or farm where the milk is produced.

What?! Dairy farms can produce raw milk, but we won't let them set up their own off-farm store or set up a table at the local farmers' market to sell that raw milk?

Correct me if I'm missing some essential point of law, marketing, or public health, but the mission of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture is to "promote, protect, preserve and improve South Dakota Agriculture." It would seem farmers' markets exist specifically to help farmers sell more product. Selling more product would seem to promote and improve this area of South Dakota agriculture. But the Department of Agriculture is supporting regulations that block dairy farmers from certain business venues where they could more efficiently reach their customer base.

That is part of why the South Dakota Department of Agriculture has overseen a decline in the number of dairies in South Dakota for 30 straight years.

p.s.: Section 5 of SB 45 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate rules concerning dairy customer records. What: not satisfied to harass raw milk producers, Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch wants to gather data on raw milk buyers so he can ban them from farmers' markets, too?


Governor Dennis Daugaard's push for more mega-dairies has drawn legal action against Brookings County from Hendricks, Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Hendricks City Council has "filed a lawsuit" against Brookings County to stop the 3,999-head concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that Michael Crinion wants to build near Oak Lake. Brookings County approved the conditional-use permit for the dairy, over the protest of Hendricks residents who are concerned that manure from the CAFO will drain into Lake Hendricks and degrade water quality.

The lawsuit appears to be an appeal of the zoning decision filed jointly by the Hendricks City Council and the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association on November 3.

Hendricks residents are bent out of shape over this dairy because they may see millions they've invested in clean water go to waste:

The fight for cleaner water in Lake Hendricks started with area farmers converting to lake-friendly land uses on thousands of acres around the lake. They planted 22 miles of buffer strips and other vegetation designed to stop runoff of sediment and nutrients. Together with sewage and stormwater improvements by lake cabin owners and by the surrounding wastewater districts, the cleanup has cost more than $5 million, [Hendricks mayor Jay] Nelson said.

In one recent project, 22 property owners on the South Dakota side of Lake Hendricks and 44 homeowners on the Minnesota side each invested an average of $12,000 in septic improvements, including hookups to the Hendricks city sewer district. Another $1.5 million has been spent on environmental testing and research, the mayor said.

“Our town’s major concern is that we’ve spent millions to clean up our lake, and it’s an unfinished job,” Nelson said. “Any runoff from this dairy would end up in Lake Hendricks” [Tony Kennedy, "The Border War over Cleaned-up Lake Hendricks," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2014.12.01].

Governor Daugaard's policy man Nathan Sanderson tells the Star-Trib the Oak Lake dairy is just one component of the state's push to double its dairy herd and provide more milk for the new state-subsidized Bel Brands cheese factory in nearby Brookings. He sneers at the Hendricks protesters, "We have an approach in South Dakota where we are open for business.... We’re not attempting to hinder business in any way."

But Hendricks residents see South Dakota hindering their business, which they say relies on clean water:

The location of this dairy, in our opinion, poses a great risk to Lake Hendricks and the surrounding area. The proposed location is within the Deer Creek Watershed District, which is the main supply of new water to Lake Hendricks. The waste management plan for the dairy calls for the continued application of their waste product to surrounding fields—all of which will create additional runoff issues when draining into Lake Hendricks. If this happens, we could see a reduction of water quality in the lake, which in turn will impact tourism, fishing, camping and other recreational and economic benefits that are enjoyed in the area [Lake Hendricks Improvement Association, letter to residents, quoted in Tammy Mathison, "Lake Hendricks Improvement Assoc. Letter Explains Reasons for Appeal," Hendricks Pioneer, 2014.11.28].

South Dakota's push for economic development now butts up against Minnesota's in a battle of milk and poop versus water.


At its October 7, 2014, meeting, the Brookings County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional-use permit for local dairy man Michael Crinion to build a 3,999-head dairy. According to the permit request, the dairy would take up the northeast quarter at the intersection of 197th Street and 482nd Avenue, one mile west of the Oak Lake Field Station and a few miles west of Lake Hendricks, which straddles the South Dakota–Minnesota border. The land is owned by Jeff Mersbergen, Chris Mersbergen, and LC Olson LLP. The dairy would have three manure storage ponds, each holding over 2.2 million cubic feet of manure. Crinion's application includes agreements with landowners to spread that manure in farm fields mostly to the west.

Mayor Jay Nelson of Hendricks, Minnesota, would rather not have all that manure so close:

"A farm with 2500 dairy cattle is similar in waste load to a city of 411,000 people." [EPA 2004] The proposed dairy upstream of Lake Hendricks would have 3999 cows. Applying this EPA statistic, this dairy could have the pollution equivalent to a city of 657,435 people. The environmental costs of this dairy will be paid by other property owners. Yet the Brookings County government did not send our city official notice of this proposed dairy prior to the Planning and Zoning board hearing. It did not send the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association official notice. It did not send the Oaklake township board official notice. It appears some adjoining land owners to this property were not notified of the hearing while others were given less than 24 hours notice [Jay Nelson, post to "Help Save Lake Hendricks" Facebook page, 2014.10.17].

Mayor Nelson invites interested citizens to meet at 8 a.m. this morning at Hendricks Park to convoy to the Brookings County Commission meeting, where Mayor Nelson's concerns about the dairy are the 9:45 agenda item.

Mayor Nelson might want to seek counsel from South Dakota Rep. Stace Nelson, who effectively organized opposition to a larger Crinion dairy proposed for his backyard near Fulton three years ago. That Hanson County project went down in part because county commissioners broke rules on the issuance and extension of conditional-use permits.


Rep. Kristi Noem retools Mike Rounds's "South Dakota common sense" mantra to say the the economy would be fine if the feds just did things the way South Dakota does. Her weekly column cites the new French cheese plant as affirmation of South Dakota's tax policies and work ethic:

...Our state tax policy makes it cheaper to run a business. The workforce is one of the most dedicated and talented in the country. We put our hearts into everything we produce. And we are surrounded by communities that generously support each other during the good times and pull together like a family would during the hard times.

It’s probably no wonder, then, that I joined Gov. Dennis Daugaard to welcome a new manufacturer to Brookings. In addition to 3M and Daktronics, Brookings is now home to a new Babybel cheese manufacturing facility. It was an honor to welcome them to our state [Rep. Kristi Noem, "SD's Economic Policies Worth Copying," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.10.07].

First, let's be clear: most people everywhere work hard and help their neighbors. South Dakota workers are not uniquely virtuous. Working folks in New York or Texas or California are not uniquely lazy or anti-social.

As for the Bel Brands cheese plant, let's review the main reasons the French decided to build in Brookings:

  1. South Dakota saved its dwindling dairy herd by luring foreign investment through a government program to sell green cards.
  2. South Dakota handed Bel Brands $5 million in corporate welfare.
  3. Brookings offers Bel Brands access to skilled graduates of one of only two university programs in the country offering degrees in dairy production and manufacturing. That program is at South Dakota State University. State University, as in, made possible by good big government.

So really, Republican Kristi Noem is telling the country to be more like South Dakota: use big government to benefit big business.


Senator Larry Tidemann chided Rep. Susan Wismer yesterday for only talking about the bad side of the EB-5 scandal. In that spirit, I am happy to point out that, contrary to the examples of Chairman Tidemann and Governor Daugaard, some Pierre pols keep their eyes, their ears, and their hearts open.

Rep. kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) writes that immigration is actually good for South Dakota business:

Dairies and other work intensive ag businesses rely heavily on foreign workers. I received a letter from a local farmer during the past year. I learned a lot from it and will quote directly from it:

“We began employing foreign workers through the H-2A visa program in 2011. We had experienced increased difficulty in hiring capable local employees. We made the decision to try the H-2A program as a last resort before being forced to liquidate…….due to lack of labor…The program has provided excellent employees…" [Rep. Kathy Tyler, "Immigration of Children," Kathy's Corner, 2014.07.27].

Rep. Tyler then turns to the Latin American children currently entering our country under a Bush Administration anti-trafficking policy and asks where our hearts and minds are:

These children are fleeing for their lives. I cannot imagine a situation where sending my child away would mean that he or she might live. Let’s be thankful that we don’t need to make that choice. The issue is not settled, and looking at the way things go in Washington, it probably won’t be for a while. I think it’s time to open our hearts and our minds a bit. Remember, they are children [Tyler, 2014.07.27].

We could use more voices of calm, practical decency like Kathy Tyler's in Pierre.

p.s.: If we invited more immigrant children to our fair state, maybe Stickney and Corsica wouldn't have to consolidate.


In his embarrassing debate performance Saturday, GOP Senate candidate Marion Michael Rounds made the stretchy claim that South Dakota lost no taxpayer dollars on EB-5.

Maybe Rounds can semantically argue that selling green cards to rich foreign investors who then lose their socks on badly managed bankrupt projects doesn't directly deplete South Dakota's public coffers. But his EB-5 program has subsidized bad behavior that continues to cost taxpayers money.

Consider Richard Millner, the notorious dairy don who made $13.5 million in EB-5 investment disappear in the bankruptcy of his Veblen mega-dairies. After frittering away that subsidy, Millner maintained the wherewithal to acquire the Swier Dairy in Lake County, which received $1 million in EB-5 money to subsidize its startup. Since buying into the Ramona market, Millner has stiffed Lake County for thousands of dollars in property tax. He was behind on property taxes last year. A review of the Lake County tax database finds the same is true this year: Lake County Dairy owes Lake County about $12,000.

Millner has also let slip his business registration: according to the Secretary of State's corporate database, Millner has let the corporate registration for his Veblen bar, the Bull Pen, go delinquent. That's another $50 out of which Millner is cheating the state.

I'm sure $12K is small potatoes for Nine-Million-Dollar Man Mike Rounds. But it's $12K Millner owes the taxpayers on businesses that he has only because EB-5 subsidized his earlier failure.


Last month, the state Ag Department, the state dairy industry, and the Valley Queen Cheese factory ganged up to block Senate Bill 126, which would have undone some of the onerous restrictions the state put on raw milk sales last year. While a whole bunch of South Dakotans asked the Legislature to give them a little more freedom to sell and buy locally produced milk, Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch called raw milk "inherently dangerous."

Guns are inherently dangerous, yet the state recruits gun manufacturers to make and sell their product in South Dakota.

Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth said, "Current disease data shows people who drink raw milk have gotten sick.... We should do everything we can to prevent this.”

People who text and drive have gotten hurt, yet the Legislature refuses to impose a statewide ban on that activity.

Big-wheel Republican lobbyist Matthew McCaulley, speaking on behalf of Valley Queen Cheese (one of the big businesses selected by Dennis Daugaard to join his May trade mission to China), complained that if we allow more raw milk sales, "Consumers will have difficulty distinguishing between pasteurized and unpasteurized products." Therefore, "Valley Queen Cheese Factory would be in favor of, as some states have done, a total ban on the sale of raw milk."

You have local dairy producers selling milk they bottled themselves at farmers markets and small mom-and-pop shops. You have Valley Queen Cheese dumping massive quantities of industrial dairy products at the supermarket. Are you really struggling to tell the difference? But hey: when you're a crony capitalist trying to rationalize your request for the nanny state to ban your competitors from the marketplace, you end up saying some silly things.

Meanwhile, an eager reader notes that the nanny states of Europe are making it easier to buy raw milk:

In response to the first-rate benefits of raw milk, several European nations have installed self-service vending machines that provide access to the food 24 hours a day. Brainchild of dairy farmer Michel Cantaloube, the machines have been stationed around France, the UK and Spain – supplying local, sustainable and unpasteurized milk to surrounding communities. The dairy farms involved hope to expand the venture into a similar vending machine for raw yogurt.

Other countries like Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands have begun to install their own raw milk vending machines as well [Carolanne Wright, "Europe Embraces Healthy Raw Dairy by Unveiling Fresh Milk Vending Machines," Wake Up World, 2014.03.11].

Bring your own bottle! Please tell me that vending machine moos when you hit the button.


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