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HJR 5002: Let South Dakotans Elect Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources

I like ballot measures because I like giving the people more opportunities to vote. So I might be doubly inclined to support House Joint Resolution 5002, which would give us a chance to vote on having the chance to vote for a Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Currently the leader of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources is an GOP business flunky a Secretary appointed by the Governor.  HJR 5002, prime-sponsored by Representative Oren Lesmeister (D-26A/Parade), would change that Secretary to a Commissioner elected every four years alongside South Dakota’s other constitutional officers—Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer, and Commissioner of School and Public Lands.

12 states elect commissioners of agriculture: North Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, West Virginia, and most of the Confederacy. The only Democrat serving in one of those elected Ag commissioner seats is Nikki Fried of Florida. Florida’s Commissioner handles agriculture and consumer services. None of those state ag agencies have natural resources folded into their portfolio.

Making the chief of the newly merged agriculture and natural resources functions of the state subject to popular election would take a little bit of power away from the Governor, which may explain why Representative Lesmeister has been able to win co-sponsorship from a handful of Republicans who have occasionally balked under Kristi Noem’s yoke. Electing a Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources would also give farmers and conservationists a bigger stage during our elections, as they would have statewide candidates whose total focus would be on how we protect and use South Dakota’s land, water, and air.

HJR 5002 would amend Article 4 Section 7 of the South Dakota Constitution; it thus would have to go to the voters this November for approval.

HJR 5002 gets its first hearing before House Agriculture and Natural Resources on Tuesday afternoon, 3:15 p.m. or 15 minutes after the House adjourns, in Capitol Room 414.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-02-14 07:31

    Yeah, no.

    The South Dakota Department of Agribusiness and Natural Ruination will be in Republican hands even after the Yellowstone Supervolcano ends all life in my home state.

  2. ABC 2022-02-14 09:22

    The biggie is still the June primary, NO on C. Our initiative and referendum process, signed by Populist Governor Lee of Vermillion has to be maintained at 50% and one vote.

    Ag commissioner would be great. I hope they would respect my small indoor cactus ranch that I could grow on my windowsill in Lead. Selling NFTs on that could be better than a lot of farms, maybe 7 figure income!

    Democratic Party has to be resurrected and re enlivened somehow. Barring that, a new Progressive Party has to be born and takes power. It’s not, hey, here are some Progressive Bernie style policies for you. It should be, you the People are Progressive because you vote that way in ballot issues. Any Trumpy or Republican January 6 insurrection is protected speech is simply some of you guys drinking the wrong kool aid.

    Democratic Party is stuck on a reef somewhere in the Pacific and the repair ship never arrives. A true Progressive Party knows the people rule now, and all they need are representatives that will be there for them 2 to 4 years maximum, and will represent the people, not the Frat boy style Insurrectionist far right wing people who vote their own interests always, not the people’s interest.

  3. ABC 2022-02-14 09:26

    Unwritten policy of the Democratic Party is “We guarantee a Republican Governor elected every 4 years.”

    Warranty on that is good. No calls to the warranty center on that.

    Green Party has failed to establish itself. I hope a Progressive Party can take root and rule.

  4. Donald Pay 2022-02-14 09:55

    I’d have to ruminate a while on this one. Generally, my feeling is the more democracy the better, but there are a lot of reasons I can think for why you don’t want people to select the head of what has been made into a nothing department.

    A better idea might be to restructure the whole government. First, do you need a Governor? What the hell does the current one do? Noem is Exhibit A in why you can do away with one unnecessary office and probably be much better off.

    The more I listen to the British Parliament’s Question Time, the more I like the parliamentary system. Except I’d do away with parties there and here. It’s fun to listen to the British MPs debate. They put our politicians to shame. We need a merit system for politicians. Noem got elected based on the merit of certain body parts (not her brain). If I don’t have any policy reason to decide for or against candidates I go with the one who is uglier. I figure they can identify more with me. That might be another thing I’d suggest: only ugly people can be politicians.

  5. Jake 2022-02-14 10:00

    Sounds like a good way to bring some sense back into the non-sense that created this department in the first place! A vote every 4 years for the head of this mega-dept by the people would put more focus of the public to the dept. The governor currently has total control of it. Would we allow her/him to have absolute cobtrol over the affairs of State? (Sec of State) or (Treasurer -all state $$$) ???!!!

  6. Jim peterson 2022-02-14 10:46

    The Secretary of Ag should be an elected position. It needs to be independent. Some years ago the Department won’t support a position very favorably to Ag., serving on the Ag committee I asked the Secretary the reason for their position and was told it wasn’t his position but he had to honor his boss’s position. We don’t always have a Governor knowledgeable about Ag issues. It often has been a do little Department in the past.

  7. larry kurtz 2022-02-14 11:15

    Which part of being a unitary executive escapes South Dakota Democrats?

    Pick a lane.

    I swear.

  8. Porter Lansing 2022-02-14 13:37

    👉 Nick Nemec for Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources  ( ͡❛ ͜ʖ ͡❛)

  9. Mark Anderson 2022-02-14 18:21

    Florida has a great commissioner. She might even take out our killer governor. At least she has a shot,he barely got elected, not unlike urine killer governor. He’s a short stop wanna be center fielder, just like your barrel racer wanna be bull rider.

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