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Noem Thinks Environmental Regulation Is Purely an Agricultural Problem

As Governor Kristi Noem gets ready to ask the Legislature to approve her effort to bury the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the pro-corporate Department of Agriculture, she issues an argument for the “merger” that demonstrates her misconception that South Dakotans do nothing but farm and ranch:

Agriculture, conservation, and natural resource protection go hand-in-hand, and this new structure streamlines these functions in one department. For example, DANR will have a Livestock Services Program managing CAFO permitting, inspections, manure management planning, and dairy and egg licensing. These functions used to be split between two departments. Now, we will have a one-stop shop for producers, providing consistent regulatory oversight and assistance with permitting, engineering, compliance, and waste management. It also allows us to cross-train inspectors and field staff, which would result in eliminating redundant inspections from multiple departments. By providing more effective and efficient services, we can help our producers focus less on government requirements and more on getting their work done [Gov. Kristi Noem, press release, 2021.01.05].

Noem speaks here as if she never left the farm, as if she can’t see past the north 40, as if she’s never gone for a drive and seen all the manufacturers in town, the mines in the Hills, and every other non-agricultural activity that impacts the environment. Sure, farms and food processors are big polluters, but numerous other human activities threaten our environment. In this propaganda piece, Noem shows her willful inability to think beyond her own experience and her blinkered view of herself as a farm girl (we know that’s pure posing—when’s the last time Noem actually worked the farm for a living?) and of South Dakota as nothing but one big corporate farm field. Is it really that important to her effort to market herself to slobbering fans nationwide as Cowgirl Kristi that she has to pretend there aren’t any other major economic activities in the state requiring specific environmental expertise and regulation?

Noem has shown her Mickelsonian impulse to bulldoze all barriers to corporate agricultural expansion; the all-ag rhetoric with which she cloaks her assignment of the multifaceted problem of environmental regulation to one narrowly focused department shows her own narrow focus on profits and her gravely incomplete understanding of the complex issues facing our state.

Corn-Cob-CAFO Blinkerism Update 06:34 CST: KELO Radio reports that Noem is hosting a conference call this morning for farmers and ranchers to discuss the DoA/DENR merger. Just farmers and ranchers? Will the Governor be holding similar calls for manufacturers, builders, oil and gas shippers and vendors, miners, wastewater treatment infrastructure managers, and environmental advocates and experts?


  1. John Dale 2021-01-06 06:53

    Because they are on the front lines, and because they affect our environment by an enormous margin when considering % of sq ft, farmers and ranchers are the best and most efficient way to have dramatic effects on the environment (one way or the other). It’s the perfect, appropriate place to make a solid beach head on the issues, regardless of where we’ve been with the environment, where we are now, where we’re going, and how many intermediate steps will be required to get there.

  2. bearcreekbat 2021-01-06 08:19

    One potentially useful tool helpful in identifying endeavors that have damaged South Dakota enviromental resources and likely need serious State regulation and control is a review of this State’s past and present “Superfund” sites. I was unable to find any agricultural sites listed, but I may have missed one. Perhaps Dale or the Noem administration can help point out what I missed.

    The CERCLA federal law of 1980 authorized the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a list of polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations.[1] These locations are known as Superfund sites, . . . .

  3. TAG 2021-01-06 12:36

    I would think that “any South Dakotan that consumes drinking water” might be a good stakeholder group to include in this query. Or “South Dakotans who don’t want to be exposed to carcinogens”. Asking polluters how they would prefer to be regulated strikes me as a little one-sided.

  4. T 2021-01-07 00:48

    I have talked this talk for years……being in the ag industry, we are raping our lands. We are I. A cycle of paying out rages rates fir fertilizers and seed for production. In the meantime we are not giving back to the lands that produce it. Beets and cattle are a must. David Attenbourough desceibefs it’s best in his narrative show. In order for these lands to keep producing with the worlds hunger, we must preserve our soils, we are not doing this. top soils only last so long . Our great leader needs to tak initiates on profitable soils, profitable sustain abilities, at the very minimum, preserving our SD soils and agriculture’ futures,
    There are no SD information programs or sites telling us that at Ber minimum. Plant beets or cover crops. This not only would be a start but also help w climate change. It’s unbelievable how many farmers, including my neighbors,that do not believe in climate change, yet their very own legacy depends upon it. If our governor doesn’t take a stance in future sustainability, we are all doomed.

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