Rachel and Jeff Kippley

Rachel Kippley and her husband Jeff of Aberdeen, pose in Washington, D.C., during the 2018 National Farmers Union D.C. Fly-In. “It is really rewarding because you can provide them with a picture of what life is like on your farm or ranch and share your challenges with decision-makers," Kippley said.

Ever feel like D.C. politicians don’t understand life on a South Dakota farm or ranch? The National Farmers Union D.C. Fly-In provides an opportunity for everyday farmers and ranchers to share their concerns and explain their story to decision makers in the nation's capital.

The fly-in is set for Sept. 9-11.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect with those leaders who don’t know about the day-to-day life on the farm,” said Rachel Kippley, a family farmer from Aberdeen who participated in last year's fly-in. “It is really rewarding because you can provide them with a picture of what life is like on your farm or ranch and share your challenges with decision-makers.”

And, Kippley adds, you’re not going it alone: “National Farmers Union does a good job letting us know about the two to four initiatives the organization is focusing on. Then they turn you loose.”

State Farmers Union staff and board members are also by your side, serving as guides, so fly-in participants can focus on sharing their farm or ranch story.

“Your story is so valuable. This may be the first time some Congressional leaders have ever heard from a family farmer or rancher, so I, Doug and the team do everything we can to make it easy for you to share,” said Karla Hofhenke, South Dakota Farmers Union executive director.

During the fly-in, members meet with Congressional leaders from South Dakota, but also many other states who don’t have Farmers Union fly-in participants.

Before Capitol Hill meetings begin, members get to hear from U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on current and impending policy. They also have an opportunity to ask questions.

“Federal officials, just like policymakers, need to hear from the farmers and ranchers they serve,” South Dakota Farmers Union president Doug Sombke said. “The farmer’s image with the general public isn’t that great right now because there’s the perception that we are too heavily subsidized. We need to help them understand policies that need to change so we can receive a fair price for our product – and also share our ideas for solutions so we won’t need subsidies.”

This year, Sombke sees infrastructure as a hot topic. And, he hopes to also advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Craig Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors.

Sombke and Blindert have made other trips to D.C. to advocate for IMSET, urging governmental organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for RMA to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“Farmers and ranchers are resourceful. We have sound ideas about ways to overcome our challenges, but because we are not the creators of many of our challenges – like trade wars and monopolies – we need partners in advocating for policy change. This is why we go to D.C. – to lobby for agriculture and support of agriculture,” Sombke said.

To learn more about the 2019 D.C. fly-in, Sept. 9-11 contact Hofhenke at 605-352-6761 ext. 114 or Karla@SDFU.org.

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