Serving South Dakota’s Producers as the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources

On April 19, 2021, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officially began serving South Dakota as the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Our mission is to protect and preserve South Dakota’s agriculture, environment, and natural resources through effective regulatory services, natural resource conservation, and financial and technical assistance. I look forward to working with you to support producers and protect our natural resources.

In South Dakota, our family farms have been here for generations. I am proud to be a fifth-generation farmer and rancher and look forward to passing the tradition on to my children and grandchildren. As a producer, I know that unnecessary or overreaching regulations can create roadblocks to success. Together, as DANR, we are working to streamline the state’s agricultural and environmental services while maintaining common sense regulations that work for South Dakota. By having our agricultural and environmental experts in the same department, I am confident we will achieve the best outcomes for our state.

As I talk with South Dakotans about the merger, the most frequently asked question I hear is, “how can DANR meet the needs of agriculture, South Dakota’s number one industry, and still effectively protect our environment and natural resources”. My response is that agricultural success and natural resource protection are not and cannot be mutually exclusive – they must work together to succeed long term.

For example, each year we see ag chemical spills in South Dakota. These spills cost producers time and money and impact our environment, so it is important to get them cleaned up as quickly as possible. In the past, both SDDA and DENR would respond to ag chem spills, and often the responsible party would be subject to clean up, disposal, and reporting requirements from both departments. This was redundant, confusing, and time consuming. As DANR, we will eliminate these redundancies, and our ag and environmental experts, now housed in one department, will provide unified direction to the responsible party so they can focus on cleaning up the spill and meeting the regulatory requirements. This is a win-win for our producers and the environment and is a direct result of the merger.

In addition, DANR is working with a diverse group of partners from across the state on the Riparian Buffer Initiative. All South Dakotans have a vested interest in protecting our water resources – it’s not just a natural resource issue; it’s not just an ag issue; it’s an issue for everyone. We need to work together to implement practical and effective solutions.

That is why I am excited about the South Dakota Riparian Buffer Initiative. Riparian buffers have a proven record of improving water quality and providing valuable habitat, stabilizing stream banks, adding forage for livestock, and reducing production costs on marginal crop lands. Riparian buffers are an excellent conservation practice. They just aren’t currently used enough to move the “water quality” needle in our impaired watersheds. It’s time for a change, which is why we’re incentivizing development of riparian buffers.

Through the Initiative, we will establish more than 3,000 acres of new riparian buffers across the state making measurable water quality improvements in South Dakota’s impaired watersheds. However, we will not mandate participation. Producers know best how to manage their land – what they need are common sense options allowing them flexibility to effectively manage their resources for the next generation.

As we move forward as DANR, I am grateful to live, work, and raise my family in South Dakota. We truly understand the value of freedom, the rewards of hard work, and the beauty of our natural resources. I look forward to working with you to build a South Dakota with a prosperous economy, diverse agricultural opportunities, clean air, clean water, and healthy families.

By Hunter Roberts, Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Published in the Summer 2021 Soybean Leader