South Dakota Farmers Union Elects Leadership During 2021 State Convention

Posted on: December 21, 2021   |   Category: News Releases

True to South Dakota Farmers Union grassroots philosophy, as an organization focused on family farmers and ranchers, leaders of South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) are family farmers and ranchers.

During the 2021 State Convention held Dec. 16 and 17 in Huron, an election was held and members re-elected Conde farmer, Doug Sombke to serve as President; Lake Preston farmer, Wayne Soren to serve as Vice President; Wessington Springs farmer/rancher Scott Kolousek to serve as District 2 Director; Reliance rancher, David Reis to serve as District 4 Director and Parade rancher, Oren Lesmeister to serve as District 6 Director.

“I am honored to serve the family farmers and ranchers who make up this organization,” Sombke said.

Read on to learn more about the leaders recently elected and the reasons they serve South Dakota family farmers and ranchers.

Doug Sombke

Doug Sombke, Conde farmer and SDFU President

Q: What motivates you as you begin another term of service to SDFU members?  

A: There is work yet to be done. I am honored to work for our state’s family farmers and ranchers.

Even though our organization has made great strides on issues like E30, and we believe we are close to a return of MCOOL because policymakers are beginning to agree that we need to hold packers accountable, now is not the time to relax.

We need to remain diligent and focused.

As a family farmer, I see my sons struggling with some of the same challenges I faced when I was a young farmer starting out. Like many of you, our family needs to have off-farm income to make it.

Although some of the struggles today’s young farmers and ranchers face are the same ones those of us who got our start in the ’80s experienced, the political climate within South Dakota has changed. Today, there are fewer farmer/rancher legislators. This underscores the need for our organization to provide education and serve as a resource to leaders in Pierre and D.C.

It takes time to build relationships and trust. During the years I have served, I have worked hard to do this. I will continue to work hard every day for South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers and the policy Farmers Union members put in place.

Wayne Soren

Wayne Soren, Lake Preston farmer and Vice President

Q: What motivates you as you begin another term of service to SDFU members?

A: There are many reasons I am motivated to serve. Farmers Union’s continued involvement in cooperatives and cooperative education is a big one.

I only need to think about the role cooperatives play in the rural communities we rely upon to appreciate the work our organization does to educate and provide leadership training to the next generation of co-op leaders. What would our communities be like without a rural electric cooperative or telephone/internet cooperative or rural water or the local elevator? When private companies would not provide these goods and services to rural communities, Farmers Union helped citizens form cooperatives. Development of cooperatives was our way of saying, “instead of being at the mercy of the market, let’s do this ourselves.”

As vice president I have diligently worked to support and guide our organization in its support of cooperatives. I have also applied this same energy and worked closely with our president and board to carry out all policy put in place by our members.

It is because of our policy to work for fair prices for family farmers and ranchers, that our organization is leading the fight to re-introduce competitive prices into the livestock markets by encouraging lawmakers to enforce the law and put an end to packer price fixing.

Like cooperative development, I see this as yet another issue where Farmers Union is supporting rural citizens in pulling on our work boots to get things done.

Oren Lesmeister

Oren Lesmeister, Parade rancher and District 6 Director

Q: What motivates you as you begin another term of service to SDFU members?

A: Serving on the state board of directors provides the opportunity to expand my level of service to our state’s family farmers and ranchers.

In this role, I will continue building strong relationships with our state’s policymakers. Building relationships is something I focus on as District 28-A Representative, and as a director, I will continue to work on building bridges for agriculture.  

Speaking of policy, I appreciate the grassroots nature of this organization. Farmers Union members voted on policy to make growing industrial hemp legal in South Dakota. The support, education and research efforts of Farmers Union helped this bill pass. The organization continues to work to connect South Dakota producers with the information they need as they decide to try out this new crop for themselves.

Scott Kolousek

Scott Kolousek, Wessington Springs farmer/rancher and District 2 Director

Q: What motivates you as you begin another term of service to SDFU members?

A: Ever since my wife, Amber and I attended our first Fly-In in 2014, I just love what the organization does for farmers and what they stand for. As a director I get to work to support growing the organization, supporting our county organizations, and encouraging member involvement in our grassroots policy.

As a Farmers Union member, it means a lot to me that my thoughts and actions at the county level can go directly to the policy meeting and if other members agree, the policy will go on to State Convention and from there, the National Convention. And if members across the nation agree, the policy we developed during a District 2 County Meeting can become policy the national organization lobbies for in D.C.

Right now, what Farmers Union policy is doing to help the cattle industry means a lot. And this policy originated at the producer level. It’s not the organization telling its members what we stand for, it’s boots on the ground telling the organization what to fight for. Because of this, I believe Farmers Union is on the right side of most ag issues.

David Newlow
David Reis

David Reis, Reliance rancher and District 4 Director

Q: What motivates you as you begin another term of service to SDFU members?

A: I believe in the mission of South Dakota Farmers Union and the work that the board of directors does to fulfill its mission and guide our organization.

MCOOL is a policy issue I remain passionate about because as cattle producers we need to be able to differentiate our product from imported product. I appreciate the work Farmers Union has done historically and is doing to get it reinstated.

MCOOL is a step toward fair markets. Fair markets are not just a farmer/rancher issue. I just read an article about consumers upset over high retail prices for meat cuts. Here we are as cattle producers, barely able to keep our head above water financially, and at the same time consumers are having a tough time paying the high rates demanded at the meat counter.

I enjoy working together with the state board of directors. I feel together with members and our state staff we have accomplished a lot, but there is more to do. Fair prices have been a focus of Farmers Union member-led grassroots policy since the beginning. I appreciate the opportunity to continue serving so we can get to where we need to be so family ranchers and farmers can receive fair markets and prices. I hope to see this through to fruition.