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SRD 901: Senate to Debate Stopping Noem’s Ag/DENR Merger This Week!

Democrats in the Legislature are standing up against one of Governor Kristi Noem’s worst ideas, the burial by “merger” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources into the pro-business Department of Agriculture.

Senate Resolution of Disapproval 901, sponsored by five bold Democrats, would halt the “merger”, which Governor Noem made official earlier this year with Executive Order 2021-03 on January 19. Her bad plan has been all about agribusiness and getting environmental protection out of the way of agriprofits, and that bias was apparent in the roster of opponents who showed up to testify against SRD 901 on Thursday. Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden led the agribusiness elites who stood up to claim their industrial exceptionalism in being better positioned to manage the environment they exploit for a living than any of the environmental groups who spoke in favor of SRD 901. He did get backup from the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, which passed a resolution celebrating its historical collaboration with the Department of Ag and apparent eagerness to see that Department’s power and portfolio grow. But everyone else speaking in favor of making Ag its own environmental manager, including rancher Pat Trask from Meade County, stands to make more money by subordinating environmental regulation to the agribusiness agenda.

Pat Trask also said the E in DENR was a part of a “globalist confraternity,” brought here by Bill Janklow and pushed by George Soros, that “desires to depopulate the world,” and changing from the “false god of E” to the good cowboys of A will save us from Soros.

Minority Leader and prime SRD 901 sponsor Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission) rebutted, “I consider myself a pretty good cowboy, and I don’t even know George Soros.” The other South Dakotans who spoke for SRD 901 aren’t Soros globalists, either. Doug Sombke from the Farmers Union, Paul Lepisto from the Izaak Walton League, Chris Hesla from the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, Nancy Hilding from the Prairie Hills Audubon Society, Ailee Johns from the Sierra Club, Rebecca Terk from Dakota Rural Action, and individual speakers Doug Sombke, John Simpson, and Travis Entenman—they’re all thinking a lot less about globalism and more about how we can’t replace our precious remaining natural treasures, not to mention drinkable water. They’re likely more against globalism than the big corporate factory farms and CAFOs that want to consolidate their holdings, render our local independent farmers into a captive tenant labor force, and squeeze the life from our land for the sake of maximal inputs into their global supply chains.

John Simpson of Pierre also made the important point that during the dramatic budget crunch of 2011, Governor Dennis Daugaard didn’t see the need to consolidate any state departments, never mind Agriculture and Environment & Natural Resources. We had enough money then to keep those vital and disparate agencies separate; we have more than enough money now amidst a growing surplus to maintain robust and independent departments for promoting agriculture and protecting the environment.

And son of a gun, good sense won out over business-über-alles, by one vote. Senator Heinert pulled Republican Senators Julie Frye-Mueller, Herman Otten, and V.J. Smith to the aye side of SRD 901, while only Senators Gary Cammack, Mary Duvall, and Joshua Klumb voted against. Senator Heinert’s resolution to stop the subordination of environmental regulation to agribusiness thus goes to the Senate floor for a debate worth having.

There is certainly overlap between the portfolios of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. But the DENR handles numerous issues to which the Department of Agriculture simply cannot provide the proper expertise or administrative focus, vital issues like stormwater discharge from factories and construction sites and urban pollution. Ag experts stretching to figure out such diverse environmental issues will not result in greater efficiency; it will only result on poorer management of both issues.

The Senate could take up SRD 901 tomorrow. Corporate agriculture has already captured on South Dakota state department; don’t let them capture another. Contact your Senators, and tell them to protect our natural resources by voting for Senate Resolution of Disapproval 901.


  1. grudznick 2021-03-07

    The shiny objects are indeed keeping the libbies’ attention, it seems. All is well. Keep watching the shiny objects. Do not worry about these other matters to which you should be paying attention. All is well.

  2. jake 2021-03-07

    Last thing I’d like to be on god’s earth is a ‘troll’ to tyour inane comments on cory’s blog.
    Shiny objects that grab yours and others like you’s attention are “Money -Greed -and Power, & Love/Lust of all 3”! Shiny objects to your ilk are the foregoing.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-03-07

    I didn’t know you were bald Grudz.

  4. grudznick 2021-03-07

    I am a barber’s barber, Mr. Anderson. I sport a variety of styles. And if I have to say so myownself, I look damn good.

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-03-07

    Someone should tell Pat Trask that Soros pays very well.

  6. Yvonne 2021-03-07

    The consolidation of the DENR and the ag is not about conserving costs…its about continuing with the already lame lack of environmental oversight which the DENR fails, repeatedly, and intentionally to do. It takes years before the DENR initiates any formal enforcement action against environmental violations conducted by those this State is in bed with. (I don’t mean literally, or could it be?). When they do, they reach a settlement with them for pennies on the dollar while our natural resources have been and continue to be contaminated. Turn a blind eye on every turn. No meaningful oversight and skirt around the EPA rules year after year. The Boards that are suppose to monitor, oversee and enforce federal mandates this state must conform to (DENR gets big bucks from the federal government) are no different. A waste of tax payers money those boards are.
    Hand the environmental governing officials a glass of water from our water resources which our wildlife and the public drink from which are affected by industrial greed.
    Remember in 2019 when CAFO “consolidated animal feed operations) was publicly deemed to become an issue in this state…well we are seeing how part of those CAO plans are now coming into fruition-an agenda being pushed by those in power the people of this state voted in. And I’m not referring to the other CAFO which stands for the more moral and humane side of people that still exist in society yet…the Cristian Alliance For Orphans. This group is not about greed.

  7. Donald Pay 2021-03-07

    I like Pat Trask. I worked with him on some issues, but he’s wrong, particularly on the history of DENR.

    This is what I recall. Governor Kneip created the Department of Environmental Protection, taking some water, solid waste and air matters from the Department of Health. Governor Janklow then took radiation protection from Department of Health, exploration and mining from the Department of Ag and consolidated them with the Department of Environmental Protection. Janklow may have given it a new name, but I can’t recall it. Then the Department got water quality matters from, I think, Department of Ag and the Department was renamed the Department of Water and Natural Resources. All of this was done to make the environmental area more professional, as the state was losing cases to the Black Hills Alliance attorneys. George Soros was not involved. (Get real, Pat) As I recall Governor Mickelson renamed it the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-08

    Donald, has Pat Trask always been an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist?

    The Departmental history Donald provides shows a sensible consolidation of environmental regulation from disparate departments into one central office. Maybe we can find some reason for hope in that history: Janklow moved environmental functions into that dedicated office to get more professional operations and better handle lawsuits from environmentalists. If Noem’s Department of Agriculture takes those oeprations back, they’ll be less professional, less knowledgeable, and less efficient, and environmental groups may have an easier time fighting the state in court to turn back bad environmental decisions.

  9. Donald Pay 2021-03-08

    Kneip begun the modernization of government, consolidating a lot of independent fiefdoms into a more efficient cabinet system. Janklow continued the process. As far as the environmental functions, those were relatively new because most of the federal laws came into effect in the late 1960s and 1970s. Before that state environmental statutes were minimal.

  10. Richard Schriever 2021-03-08

    Donald, If I recall correctly it was (our mutual friend?) Gerry Andrews who oversaw Governor Kneip’s restructuring/modernizing of SD government.

  11. Donald Pay 2021-03-08

    Yeah, Richard, I can’t recall all the actors. I was focused on the environmental part of stuff from about 1972 on. Most of the environmental movement in South Dakota at that time was very localized. Our little Sioux Falls group was involved in recycling, and I personally was involved with efforts to prevent further channelization of the Sioux River and its tributaries around Sioux Falls. Our group joined with others to form the South Dakota Resources Coalition. The big issue in East River that started bubbling up was the Oahe Irrigation Project. United Family Farmers had a crack researcher, George Piper, who ran circles around whatever the state and feds put out. I think part of the idea for bringing all the environmental stuff under one umbrella was to give the state a way to have multi-disciplinary staff to research and support projects like Oahe, which were more complex than what had been undertaken before in South Dakota. I know that issue flummoxed Kneip, and Janklow would be further flummoxed on the Cendak Irrigation Project, uranium mining, ETSI, etc.

  12. marvin kammerer 2021-03-08

    we of sd. rural people & of course all so.dakotans will be the losers if the ag.dept.& the denr. are consolidated as one. part track & others came to the” black hills alliance” to stop the Etsie pipeline from happening. janklow was really pushing this project.we suppenined him with his jaw wired shut to rapid city for a full day & much into the night. that was when glasgow, had set up a meeting on the same issue at our local hall for that evening.that explained the lack of neighbors attending the meeting in rapid city.i call it a chicken- procedure of the state & the 6th.district council. again i say DON’t merge the AG.dept. with the DENR.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-03-08

    well…in retrospect, there were some great environmental battles that were won in South Dakota, even though the State Department of Natural Resources was often a reluctant advocate.However, the Department did cause studies to occur, hearings to be held, discussions to develop options took place, the the public came around to an understanding of the ramifications of some of government’s grandiose proposals. Perhaps the public will come around when the James River and Sioux River valleys wash away in a tide of hog manure. It won’t be pleasant.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-11

    As your next Governor, I promise to undo this merger and reëstablish the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as an independent agency.

    Then, in the interest of smaller, more efficient government, I will fire two-thirds of the Department of Agriculture staff, parcel the remaining staff and their functions out to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and (State Fair) the Department of Tourism, and abolish the Department of Agriculture.

  15. Yvonne 2021-03-13

    See how Bidens administrative enforcement of environmental laws that are still on the books will fare wuth this states failure to comply with federal laws this state is required to conform and “comply” with if it wants to be approved to regulate EPA regulations. South Dakota gets a ton of money if it complies with federal guidelines. If not, that approval can be taken away. All that’s needed is a showing of this states failure to be in compliance…petition by many environmental groups can handle this plight simply. A firing of the head of the DENR, Roberts, is a start. Saw the purpose of his appointment long time coming to now serve the evil driven greedy self serving merge. Now the new merging entity can ruin more of our streams and waterways for corporate greed without any federal oversight. I bet NOT! I see lawsuits in the making. Siuth Dakota is not going to end up as another Flint, Michigan or is it. We all know who took the heat in the end with that scheme. I thought Noem was a Christian. What would Jesus think and do?

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