Northern Electric Cooperative in collaboration with the region’s other Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, hosted a Livestock Development Summit on November 15, 2018, at the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Performing Arts Center in Brookings. Nearly 300 producers, community leaders, and representatives from agriculture organizations attended the event.
The purpose of the summit was to address key issues related to livestock development, discuss the most effective and responsible ways to move forward and connect farmers with leaders and businesses in the industry. It also presented attendees with a better understanding of the challenges, opportunities and growth potential offered by livestock development across South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota.
“We want to open the door for South Dakota and Minnesota livestock producers to seriously consider the opportunity to expand their operation,” Mike Jaspers, business development director for East River Electric Power Cooperative said. East River Electric is the wholesale power provider for the region’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.
“Often, a livestock producer will mull around the idea to expand for quite a while before taking action on it. We wanted the Livestock Development Summit to be a catalyst for taking the first steps toward that expansion,” Jaspers said.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and SDSU President Barry Dunn served as featured speakers at the free event. They both highlighted the role livestock development plays in keeping future generations in their local communities.
“If you’re from small-town South Dakota it is very hard to attract Amazon or Google,” Daugaard said during his address to the attendees of the summit. “This (livestock development) is a great way for young people to join their family operation and contribute.”
An economic impact panel discussed the potential impact of livestock development on local communities, including ancillary businesses, other farmers, utilities, workforce, schools, and infrastructure. The panel’s participants also provided economic data related to the production and processing of agricultural products to support their positions.
“If you want jobs in communities you have to be open to having livestock,” South Dakota State University Animal Science Professor Dr. Robert Thaler said during the panel discussion. “If you want young people to come back to rural communities you have to have livestock to do that.”
A next-generation farmer and agribusiness panel included Millennial farmers who discussed various opportunities to come back to the farm and how young entrepreneurs face unique challenges as they try to meet capital and site requirements. Panel participants also shared their personal experiences and vision for the next generation of farming in South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota.
A panel on siting, zoning and permitting included local county commissioners, a representative from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, and a member of the ‘Friends of the Big Sioux River’ organization. The panel focused on how local control is a fundamental tenet of agricultural production and processing. Navigating state and county regulations to get a site approved can be daunting for new livestock producers. The experts on the panel offered a realistic view of what it takes to get a new livestock operation permitted.
Financial capital is a major sticking point for many livestock operations looking to expand, which is the reason the final panel discussion of the summit focused on how to access the right type of capital for a new livestock operation and ensure long-term viability and profitability. The panel included lenders from various banking institutions in the region who have worked with livestock producers on expansions from a financial perspective.
Networking and roundtable opportunities followed the panel discussions. This portion of the event helped facilitate one-on-one and small group discussions with the panelists and other industry experts who were available to talk through specific scenarios that individual attendees may have had.
If you would be interested in discussing opportunities for a local summit in northeast South Dakota, please contact Northern Electric CEO/General Manager Char Hager or Communications Director Ben Dunsmoor at 605-225-0310.