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Dakota Rural Action Liberal… as in Fighting for Your Liberty

My response to Dakota War College's derision of Dakota Rural Action as a "liberal" activist group drew a predictable dodge in which Mr. Powers said he should call DRA "a lot worse" for opposing corporate farms and criticizing John Thune. In the Newspeak of GOP spin, a group fighting overreaching corporate power becomes "anti-consumer."

Don't lose sight of the the original argument, which DWC diligently and necessarily ignores: promoting local food and individual self-sufficiency through advocacy of sensible urban poultry policy is liberal, but in the classical sense of the word: promoting more liberty for more people. That's the shared goal of liberals and conservatives alike. That's why Dakota Rural Action has people of different political stripes as members; that's why DRA is helping farmers and ranchers raise their voices against the private-property and environmental predations of the Keystone XL pipeline, regardless of party affiliation.

Let's look at some other Dakota Rural Action actions through the lens of liberty:

Home-Processed Foods Law: Before 2010, it was flat illegal for South Dakotans to sell home-processed foods. DRA worked with the state health department and extension service to craft and pass legislation allowing South Dakotans to bake and can and pickle their food and make money selling the fruits of their labors. That gives producers and consumers (more market choices!) more economic liberty.

New Farmers: DRA supports a Farmer Network and a Farm Beginnings program to share knowledge and help folks enter the ag marketplace as producers. Helping more entrepreneurs gain the skills and resources they need to compete against much larger, well-financed market players expands economic opportunities and, through competition, expands consumer liberty.

Community Energy: DRA promotes small-scale individual and community-based energy projects. It shares information about South Dakotans who have used their know-how to make their own energy. DRA promotes energy efficiency so South Dakotans spend less money on their electricity bills and have more money to spend on other things they like. DRA promotes renewable energy because it provides South Dakotans with opportunities to expand their energy independence and economic opportunities. If independence and economic opportunity aren't a liberty agenda, I don't know what is.

Keystone XL: Dakota Rural Action has not gone as far as other organizations in opposing TransCanada's expansion of its tar sands transportation system. DRA has focused on fighting for landowners to receive fair, respectful treatment from this powerful foreign corporation. Saying that a corporation should not have all the power and that South Dakotans should enjoy the right to organize and negotiate from a position of strength with a company that wants to seize their land and imperil their lives and livelihoods with a large industrial project is not a nefarious plot; it's vigilant protection of South Dakotans' liberty to which neither Pat Powers, the SDGOP, or any Republican elected official has given so much as lip service.

Dakota War College's dismissal of Dakota Rural Action shows the deep roots of the trickle-down fallacy in partisan GOP thinking. Put corporations first, he cries, and landowners and consumers will see magical benefits accrue. Ignore those "liberals," he cries.... even when those "liberals" are fighting to protect your practical liberty.

Dakota Rural Action doesn't care what party you belong to or what label you apply to your ideology. They want you and all South Dakotans to enjoy your liberty in a sustainable rural economy.


  1. bret clanton 2013.04.17

    I find it ironic that this " Liberal " organization has upon its mantle one of the conservatives core beliefs which would be the protection of private property rights. Could some conservative ( of which I have always thought myself to be) address this issue for me?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.17

    When we get to nuts-and-bolts state and local issues, Bret, the conventional political labels break down, and we focus (or should focus) on solving real problems.

  3. bret clanton 2013.04.17

    (should) being the key word......

  4. Les 2013.04.17

    Tell me Bret, why should I as a conserv have to depend on a Colorado Democrat to try and amend some protection into the NDAA for our constitutional rights?
    This political system is so broken both parties pick and choose not for the best interests of America, but at their handlers behest.

  5. Charlie Johnson 2013.04.17

    Dakota Rural Action has a long lasting legacy of working for individual rights, opportunities, and yes individual responsibility(Amendment E--don't hide behind the "corporate veil" approach to agriculture). That legacy continues on today stronger than ever.

  6. Donald Pay 2013.04.17

    DRA has been a thorn in the side of the corporate ag elite in South Dakota, standing up for the small farmer and rural life in general for years. They also happen to be very small d-democratic and inclusive, which, of course, is not something that has ever appealed to PP.

    PP probably doesn't realize it, but his snit is one in a long line of big city slams against real farmers and small town folks, who have played a big role in keeping the politics of South Dakota interesting. Basically, the same thing was said of United Family Farmers in the 1970s and Farmers' Union in the 1930s through 1950s.

    People who cash the checks they get from corporate ag while they stand by and watch corporate ag cause the inevitable decline of rural South Dakota would be expected to be a bit miffed at DRA. We see how successful the corporate elite/Republican Party power structure has been in rural development. Essentially, the elites have caused the hollowing out of rural South Dakota, reduction in population and businesses of small towns that are not bedroom communities for the large cities. If you want the Buffalo Commons to come quickly, just keep voting Republican, listening to PP and casting dispersions on DRA.

  7. Garyd 2013.04.17

    Would someone define for me what a "small" farmer is?

    My guess is the definition would change as you cross the state.

    One definition of a large farmer that I have heard is if you have one more cow or one more acre that I do that makes you a large farmer.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.17

    Excellent summary, Donald. DRA is fighting for individual liberty. DRA doesn't set out to fight Republicans... but when the Republican elites back the policies that hurt rural South Dakota, that's just how it comes out on key issues.

    Gary, maybe small isn't about a head count or an acre count. Maybe "small" is a question of power. The powers that be favor certain producers, landowners, and agricultural methods over others. Would it be fair to say that DRA tries to empower those who find themselves at a disadvantage in the current system of political and economic power?

  9. Donald Pay 2013.04.17

    What strikes me as pathetically funny is that PP quotes a DC-based political whoring outfit about a South Dakota issue, Amendment E, as if these political hacks have anything of value to say about the issue. I guarantee you those DC flunkies were no where near any of the many meetings and discussions over the drafting of Amendment E.

    I was at several of the meetings where Amendment E was being drafted and discussed, and the description PP quotes from these DC political hacks bears no relationship to what was going on. The fact is SD already had a partial corporate ban in state law, and Nebraska had a stronger corporate ban that had been voted in as a Constitutional Amendment. Amendment E was crafted to be slightly stronger than the Nebraska corporate ban.

  10. joelie hicks 2013.04.17

    A small farmer does not require a year 'round staff of workers to keep their farm going. A small farmer is usually diversified. A small farmer does not have to go around signing up people to take his or her manure. Their land will take that wonderful stuff. They do not have to make a nasty manure lagoon. I could go on, but this is a good start.

  11. joelie hicks 2013.04.17

    DRA is a group that has slogged away for many years, finally they are being recognized for their good work. I am politically conservative, and what DRA stands for is much more in line w/conservative values than big ag.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.17

    You, Joelie, are an excellent example of the kind of person left in the lurch by PP's style of GOP ideological blinders. They tell you, "You can't hang around with DRA; they're liberals!" But then they ignore you and your fellow farmers when you face predations against your liberty, and you have to turn to outfits like DRA for help. PP preaches an ideological purity that is not in your best interest. DRA doesn't require you to pass a litmus test. Whatever party you prefer, DRA wants to help you find your own voice and build your own power to defend your economic liberty.

  13. Garyd 2013.04.18

    Joelie: Then I would be considered a small farmer. I would love to have a dairy or hog unit close to me so I could use the manure as FERTILIZER, which is usually better than the stuff I buy to nourish my crops!

  14. Charlie Johnson 2013.04.18

    As far as we know there is no prohibition against a small farmer starting a livestock enterprise. Family farming is where the farm family provides most or all of the labor, mgt., and capital. Family farming embraces all 3 major components of an economic machine not just one or two. The controversy in animal agriculture started when the owner was no longer doing the chores.

  15. joelie hicks 2013.04.18

    I would not want cafo fertilizer, it is full of hormones, antibiotics and chemicals which are taken up by the plants you grow. Take some of your acreage and graze some livestock, feed them in the winter and you will have some wonderful fertilizer with little or no nasty additives. We only have winter manure because our animals are summer pastured.

  16. Donald Pay 2013.04.18

    While we're discussing PP's penchant for corporate ag, let's look into the future, which is actually being prepared now by Republican hero Governor Scott Walker. Republican leaders have united with Wall Street and foreign and multi-national corporate ag conglomerates against small farmers in a plan to sell off farm land to foreign corporations using the pension funds they're going to steal from public workers.

  17. Les 2013.04.18

    Legalized theft is now the new openly public paradigm Donald..

    Ask the folks in Cyprus how it feels to have your cash account stripped to help feed the continuing losses of the banksters. Monetary fornicators stripping the wealth in any unsavory manner from citizens worldwide.
    NWO, who gives a rip what you call the direction we are headed, they are an openly brazen crowd of amoral fraudsters with Cyprus being the current directive for future banking problems.

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