As we look toward the 95th Legislative Session, Chamber members have refined our legislative agenda to guide advocacy efforts in Pierre. Last month's Chamber News included the entire legislative platform document, but you can also find the document on our website should this column pique your interest.
...Chamber has ramped-up our agri-business profile
Because this issue of Chamber News is focused on agri-business, I wanted to reprint the Chamber's advocacy efforts for this important South Dakota industry. Although the Chamber has advocated in the area of agri-business for many years, our members felt it was time to have a standalone section in our Legislative Platform addressing agri-business. This new section reads:
Agriculture has been the primary economic driver in our state since 1889. The Chamber supports legislation that enhances agri-business in South Dakota, including the expansion of agricultural products, services, and technologies.
Over the past two years, the Chamber has ramped-up our agri-business profile which includes advocacy but also includes our agri-business division leadership of Holly Rader, Agri-Business Manager. Recently Holly and I attended the SD Farm Bureau Annual Convention and shared our legislative priorities. What we learned from convention attendeeds is that they would like to see the state offer the written portion of the driver's license application, the driver's license manual and the written test in Spanish, while the skills portion of the exam remain in English. One gentleman, Lyle, shared that while his immigrant employees could converse in English very well, most would not be able to read the English language agenda for the breakfast we were attending. He praised the efforts of our work on this important workforce issue and offered our public policy committee members a tour of his ranch in the near future.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau included two South Dakota cities, Huron and Brookings, in the top ten metro areas in America for the highest rate of international migration for 2018. Huron ranked number one followed by Miami/Ft. Lauderdale – West Palm Beach, Florida. International migration is key to South Dakota's economy in all sectors of agri-business, and is equally important to building trades and manufacturers.
The Sioux Falls area has at least two agri-business manufacturers that seek to process industrial hemp and hope the upcoming legislative session will include the passage of a bill legalizing industrial hemp. One of those businesses would double their employees should the passage of a bill occur. At this point, in the story it is important to note that the legislature will likely have to override a veto from Governor Noem should they pass a bill in 2020. Note: in the 2019 legislative session, the House overrode the Governor's veto with votes to spare, but the Senate was a few votes short of an override, so the veto was sustained.
A recent Chamber membership survey showed that 79 percent of members supported legalizing industrial hemp. The industrial hemp interim study group has evaluated the efforts of other states that have implemented an industrial hemp program. One of the key concerns for those who oppose the plant, is harvesting the plant with the lower than point-three THC requirement. Through conversations with other State Departments of Agriculture, our legislature has learned there are seed varieties of the plant which can sustain the THC requirement of lower than point-three percent. This is good news for hemp supporters. As the Chamber seeks to learn more about proposed legislation, we will evaluate the impact of each bill and seek the best answers for our members who provide jobs within the greater Sioux Falls area.