“Under God, the People rule.” This is supposed to be South Dakota’s state motto. Given recent events, perhaps that motto should be changed to “Kristi Noem and Big Ag rule.”

I am referring to the recent announcement by the governor to merge the Department of Agriculture with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to create a new agency, the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Somehow the word “Environment” got left out of the title.

If the Department of Agriculture and the DENR would work together to bring about more sustainable farming practices in South Dakota, such a merger might make more sense. Instead, the Department of Agriculture seems to turn a blind eye to the farming methods that do the most harm to our environment: big animal confinement operations, monoculture and use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, to name just a few. The DENR is charged with protecting South Dakota’s environment and natural resources. How is it supposed to do that if it is swallowed up into an agency that has little interest in conservation?

Agriculture may be South Dakota’s No. 1 industry, but unless we work to protect our land and water with sustainable practices, the soil will be too exhausted and the water too polluted to carry on any kind of farming or ranching.

The state Legislature can reverse Gov. Noem’s action with a majority vote. Give the rule back to the people. Contact your legislators and urge them to overturn this foolish merger.

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