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Gov. Noem explains merits of ag innovation to DakotaFest Day 1 attendees

The Ag Innovation Forum, hosted by the South Dakota Farm Bureau, included presentations from two producers in the cattle industry and a representative of Raven Industries, which is on the leading edge of autonomous agriculture. The speakers underscored how investments in high-tech planting and grazing can increase yield and meet sustainability goals.

Panel of speakers including Gov. Kristi Noem and agricultural producers.
Gov. Kristi Noem, left, listens as Nick Jorgensen of Jorgensen Land and Cattle, second from left, tells how precision-grazing cattle collars can cut down on fencing costs and make rotational grazing easier for ranchers. Jorgensen was one of three industry leaders chosen for the panel, joining Lynn Boadwine, third from left, and Nick Langerock, far right, at the Governor's Ag Innovation Forum.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service
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MITCHELL, S.D. — Rural broadband expansion was a key issue during the Governor’s Ag Innovation Forum at DakotaFest in Mitchell on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Gov. Kristi Noem reminded attendees that one of the goals of her administration has been to get high-speed broadband to “every single corner” of the state by the end of a potential second term. During the 2021 session, state legislators approved $75 million in state funds to build rural broadband infrastructure, and tens of millions in grants to private internet companies have been announced since.

Noem was joined on the panel by two entrepreneurs in the cattle business, Nick Jorgensen of Jorgensen Land and Cattle and Lynn Boadwine of Boadwine Dairy, as well as Nick Langerock, the director of strategic marketing at Raven Industries. The panelists focused on how producers and businesses are making strides in yield and sustainability using a new era of agricultural technology.

Boadwine said that many people outside the agriculture sector don’t know the extent of innovation and focus on sustainability happening in the industry, from Jorgensen’s use of precision-grazing cattle collars to Langerock’s discussion of how autonomous offerings from Raven Industries boost efficiency.

“Spend a little bit of time sharing your message, either on social media or showing up in forums or city council meetings talking about what you’re doing to grow our food, because telling that story is powerful,” Noem told the audience.


Attendees at the panel expressed concerns with the actual implementation of the technology discussed in the forum. One farmer asked Langerock how the promise of complex autonomous tractors and other farm equipment would interact with the reality of parts delays and other supply chain issues.

“We try to keep a certain amount of parts and supply our machines,” Langerock responded. “But we don’t have a magic ball for that, we’re working alongside you on that right now.”

Scott Estabrook, a corn and soybean farmer based in Letcher, South Dakota, said that producers trying to implement new technologies can sometimes become bogged down in regulatory red tape. Noem agreed with his concern, pointing out that most of the decisions affecting farmers are made at the federal level.

These programs and regulations will be the focus of a Farm Bill Forum on the morning of Aug. 17.

After the session, Estabrook told Forum News Service that he thought the discussion gave a good synopsis of the technology landscape on both the cattle and row crop side, saying that automated planting, maintenance and harvesting are avenues he would consider as they become more widely available.

“Those AI systems are going to help us manage a lot better in the future than we already are,” Estabrook said. “Because when you go out at the end of the year you can see tons of things you did wrong on all the land, and something more predictive and more precise can do a better job than what we’re doing now.”

The hour-long debate, hosted by KOTA and Dakota News Now in Rapid City, offered voters a look at Noem, Smith and Libertarian candidate Tracey Quint. Topics ranged from Noem's grocery tax announcement to Smith and Noem's differing opinions on how the pandemic should have been handled.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or jharward@forumcomm.com.

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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