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HB 1055: Department of Agriculture Chopping Shelterbelt Program

Just a month ago the State Conservation Commission awarded 29 grants to 20 conservation districts to spend more than $350,000 to plant more shelterbelts. Heck of an idea, right?

House Bill 1055 kills that program. The Department of Agriculture is asking the Legislature to strike the chapter of state law that authorizes the Department and its State Conservation Commission to certify, inspect, and pay landowners for keeping trees and bushes on their land to prevent soil erosion and keep South Dakota agriculture viable.

I don't know if the Department has a better idea or if they are just giving up on shelterbelts. But we'll from the Department tomorrow, Tuesday morning, before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 7:45 a.m.


  1. John 2015.01.26

    I never see trees being planted, just miles of tile and old tree belts torn out for more corn. I also see fewer deer, birds, and other animals in general.

  2. Charlie Hoffman 2015.01.26

    It will be good testimony finding out the why and why now part of the proposal. Though it is a drop in the bucket compared to what the GF&P spends on tree plantings and other habitat the Conservation Districts have used that money very conservatively and has been money well spent. It appears that on one end of government we are spending much time and money trying to figure out how to bring back millions of Pheasants which were lost due to habitat loss and on the other we are trying to chop off the hand that feeds them.

    CAH you have been up here and have seen and understand what kind of nesting habitat it takes to make a Wild Pheasant factory. You need to come up again this Fall as the explosion of birds will happen this year.

  3. “It does bother me when shelterbelts in our records, planted by the taxpayer, are cleared away, and those thousands of dollars that were spent are simply gone,” said Grady Heitmann, district conservationist for Faulk County, S.D. “But I don’t put the blame on the individual making a business decision. They’re trying to make a buck, trying to make a living. … I want them to make money—but I don’t want them to make that money just for one or two harvests, but for as long as they are in business.”

  4. mike from iowa 2015.01.26

    Think of the future Benda's that won't be able to commit sooicide in a non-shelterbelt wasteland. I thought the general consensus was the state wasn't gonna protect people from bad decisions.

  5. happy camper 2015.01.26

    If making a decision in the name of business a person shouldn't be blamed? Give me a break.

  6. Paul Seamans 2015.01.26

    I think that the Continuous CRP program for shelterbelt plantings is still available. Maybe there isn't much call for for the Dept. of Agriculture program. Or maybe Gov. Daugaard feels this money can be better spent in luring more CAFO's into the state.

  7. Nick Nemec 2015.01.26

    Yes Paul, the Federal government still funds a continuous CRP program for shelter belt planting through the local conservation districts and Farm Service Agency. You can pick a 10 or 15 year contract. The land must have been planted to program crops for 3 of the last 5 years. There may be other requirements concerning location and number of rows of trees. Since participants are planting trees I don't know why anyone would pick the 10 year option instead of the 15 year option.

    I suspect this State program was used by conservation districts to help get trees planted in places where there might not be an applicable Federal program.

  8. Paul Seamans 2015.01.26

    I think the planting of CRP shelterbelts pretty much came to a halt with higher grain prices. There was a flurry of tree planting around 2002/2003 but lately you see very few new tree plots, and a lot of the older ones are disappearing. Governor Daugaard can throw all the money he wants at increasing pheasant numbers but if the winter protection isn't there then he is wasting the states money.

  9. CLCJM 2015.01.26

    This does seem odd. Keep us informed like you always do, Cory.

  10. Lynn 2015.01.26

    Nick and Paul are farm practices that good such as no till and leaving ground cover if that is what it's called to replace or take the risk of eliminating shelterbelts?

    When I drive up 281 at times especially near Brown County I've seen farmers doing field work on probably days where the wind speed is near the highest of the season and that precious rich black topsoil is airborne. I understand deadlines with planting or other needs before a front moves in but I'm thinking of the soil erosion and if they would be better to wait till the winds go down.

    I'm seeing shelterbelts getting bulldozed and not maintained or replaced and see all this black dirt covered snow in the ditches too.

    What happens when we get another drought or something severe with these shelterbelts disappearing?

  11. Nick Nemec 2015.01.26

    Lynn, maybe I'm old school but I still like to see shelterbelts. Higher grain prices the last few years sure made farmers think twice about losing any acres to trees. Prices have gone down considerably in the last year and will likely be down for at least a few years. Maybe that will change the calculus for some producers.

    I drove 281 from Redfield to Frederick this last weekend and saw all the shelterbelts pushed into piles. I also saw the black snow always downwind from a soybean field, while no till can prevent wind erosion by leaving cover, soybeans, since they are combined an inch or so from the ground, leave no cover and present an erosion concern.

    Gov. DD cutting conservation programs at the same time he is lamenting the reduction in pheasant numbers is ironic to say the least. Some politicians truly are clueless.

  12. Lynn 2015.01.26

    Nick when I was driving thru 60mph winds and them doing field work seeing a huge cloud of soil and there were a number of farmers out there it just made me sick watching that soil go airborne but I figured they know way more than me regarding AG science and the business.

    It just seems like this lack of continuing investment in shelterbelts is very shortsighted especially with the swings in our weather patterns regarding prolonged drought which could get worse in the future with rising temperatures and wonder if it will come back and bite them.

    It's this constant push from the GOP and their corporate handlers geared towards short term gains regardless of the long term consequences regarding deregulation, uranium mining, Keystone XL, CAFOs, etc.

  13. Lynn 2015.01.26

    Nick that's right! Those shelterbelts are one of the few remaining places for cover left for a variety of wildlife with the pressure on famers to maximize crop yields with the land they have. Not long ago we could walk in between corn rows and doubt it could be done anymore. It's amazing how they can plant so close together now. It's incredible!

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.26

    Black snow—my wife and I were calling that snirt on a drive recently. In what other business does the owner engage in practices that cause more of his basic raw material to blow away in the wind, potentially for his competitors to use?

  15. grudznick 2015.01.26

    We should ban farming when the wind is blowing some number open to debate in the legislatures. Probably 21. Maybe 32. Then hire some farm cops to enforce it. Give them the ability to go onto private land if they suspect violations. Guns and big flashlights. That sort of thing.

  16. Lynn 2015.01.26

    Grudz we can save money by sending our new AG enforcement drone out to deliver warnings and tickets if they are playing in those fields in non compliant conditions. :)

    Seriously no legislation needed I was simply thinking it would be in their own interest but maybe the need to get planting done or fall field work done by a certain time outweighs the risk of losing a certain amount of topsoil. There is just about always some wind here in SD but those two days one in the spring and the other in the fall in those extreme conditions seemed odd to be out in the field.

  17. grudznick 2015.01.26

    If the AG has a drone plane it is probably circling Mr. Sibby's house and unavailable for other duties.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.26

    Those people need to watch the Ken Burns documentary, "The Dust Bowl." I watched it on Netflix. There is also a 1930s documentary, "The Plow," which is about the Dust Bowl.

    They need to see the dust storms, the destroyed fields, the destroyed people. But the Kochs and their cohorts don't seem to care about folks like that. To my genuine sorrow, apparently South Dakota's legislators don't care about their fellow citizens either.

    This link is to PBS, where you can learn more about "The Dust Bowl."

  19. grudznick 2015.01.26

    That is a good blogging, Ms. Geelsdottir. A very good post, ma'am.

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.26

    Thank you Grudz. I remember what my grandparents and parents told me about the Great Depression.

    Mom said when she set the table she put the plates on upside down so they wouldn't be full of dust when they ate. They didn't turn their plates back over till they were ready to put food on them. And they lived in Iowa, just south of Des Moines.

    People died from Dust Pneumonia infecting their lungs. They were weak from malnourishment and/or starvation, so they lacked the resistance of many. The Plains states were devastated. Depopulation was quick.

    Maybe that's what the Kochs want. Then they'd have nearly all the arable land. I truly hope I'm wrong.

  21. Charlie Hoffman 2015.01.27

    CAH it appears that the Dept of Ag was stuck in an old statute paying $5 an acre to landowners who had planted certified tree belts. The GF&P today pays $100 an acre for shelter belts so this bill may in fact make sense as the money was not going to Conservation Districts as was previously noted. Discussion in committee should bear witness to this.

  22. Charlie Hoffman 2015.01.27

    Grud what should be maybe limited are the size of your Breakfasts building daily to your girth!
    Just saying buddy those extra pounds are costing us all big bucks!!!

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