South Dakota voters will elect a new governor and a new U.S. representative Nov. 6. To provide insight into the candidates’ positions and views on agriculture, we have compiled profiles of those who are seeking the offices.
Candidates for the U.S. seat are Democrat Tim Bjorkman, Republican Dusty Johnson, Libertarian George Hendrickson and Independent Ron Wieczorek.
Candidates for governor are Republican Kristi Noem, Democrat Billie Sutton and Libertarian Kurt Evans.
U.S. House: Tim Bjorkman
My family has roots in the South Dakota soil. I’m a part of our family’s fifth generation in this state, and my grandchildren mark the seventh.
Family farms are deep in our heritage and remain vital to the fabric of our state, we as people, and our economy. And they will be a focus for me in Congress.
I took my first job at 12, and I know what it’s like to do hard work: shovel manure, throw feed sacks, work in a factory, on construction and in other jobs.
But I’ve also been a small-business owner, a small-town lawyer who fought to save the family farms in the 1980s. I’ve always stood up for rural people against banks, insurance firms and other companies who harmed them.
Today, they once again need a fighter—a voice—for them in Congress. We need someone to represent family farms when dealing with the bloated farm bill that is packed with money for the wealthy and corporations.
I favor a restoration of country of origin labeling (COOL). Imported beef and pork must not be passed off as a product of the USA. We need to restore COOL, and Congress has the ability to do so.
South Dakota agriculture was already struggling before the president imposed tariffs on our trade partners, which shoved our producers to the front lines of a trade war. When we combat trade violations, we should do it the right way: in a deliberate, methodical manner.
The Constitution grants only Congress the authority to impose tariffs. The founders did so because they believed no single person should have the power to impose a tariff, which is a tax, knowing that the power to tax also carries with it the power to destroy.
That’s why months before the tariffs were actually imposed, I called for Congress to retake the authority with a simple vote. Our congressional delegation was silent on the floor of Congress. Dusty Johnson only recited platitudes; he lacked the conviction to stand for South Dakota producers.
As I stated back in April, trade wars never end well. I have continued to set out that same position. Congress has no authority to undo the president’s actions. We can only see to it that reckless tariffs aren’t imposed in the future.
The trade war has lowered commodity prices, especially for soybeans. Farmers once again produced a bumper crop, but many will hold onto it, hoping for better prices. Their options are limited right now.
The problem is insufficient storage capabilities. One solution is to build more storage facilities, and once again, the tariffs harm us, because steel and aluminum prices have risen sharply.
The $12 billion for farmers will only help a little and won’t address deeper long-term problems the tariffs have brought. Congressmen, like farmers, must consider the long-term impact of choices.
The average age of a farmer nears 60. We have to do much more to help transition operations to another generation.
When I study agriculture issues, I always look at how it impacts family farmers rather than how the winds of politics are blowing. The trade war—as I and many others predicted—has lowered commodity prices, driving soybeans down over $2 a bushel. With a crop of nearly 300 million bushels, the loss approaches $750 million. We must prepare for difficult days next spring, when farmers seek contracts for their crops and operating loans.
So much of what family farmers and ranchers encounter is out of their control. They shouldn’t have to deal with the unexpected calamity of a trade war, too.
I intend to be the strong, independent voice in Congress that South Dakota family farmers and ranchers need and deserve.
Bjorkman, of Canistota, is a fifth-generation South Dakotan and a former circuit court judge. For more information, go to www.timbjorkman.com.
U.S. House: Dusty Johnson
For the past 18 months, I haven’t stopped moving.
I have visited dozens of cities and towns in South Dakota and met tens of thousands of South Dakotans. I have heard from farmers, bankers and seed dealers. I have listened to everyday South Dakotans. I have also shared my plans for making South Dakota an even better place.
I have energy to burn, and I plan to use every ounce of it on your behalf. I will be a tireless advocate for South Dakota in Washington, D.C.
This fall, you’ll hear a lot of words from politicians. I prefer actions. That’s why I read the entire farm bill this spring—cover to cover. With farmers hurting this year, I need to know the bill inside and out to effectively represent our state’s number one industry in Congress.
This summer, I took the stage in Sioux Falls to rally in support of year-round E15. Along with some of South Dakota’s leading voices in agriculture, I voiced my displeasure at the EPA dragging its feet on giving consumers the choice to use E15. If you send me to Washington, I will keep after them.
When the trade war began in earnest this summer, I didn’t sit around and wait for someone else to come up with a plan. I have been a decades-long supporter of free trade and publicly opposed getting into the trade war this spring. However, now that it has begun, we can’t afford to just withdraw and concede defeat.
We need a plan to win the trade war—quickly. That’s why I proposed increasing our negotiating force, ensuring that we can negotiate with several trading partners at once. That’s also why I re-doubled my efforts to promote E15 and other value-added agriculture measures to boost domestic demand and help our commodity prices now and into the future. Again, I prioritized actions over rhetoric.
If you send me to Washington, I will be a tireless fighter for our producers, consumers, hunters and our South Dakota way of life. I will work hard to reduce the regulations and restrictions that make farming more costly. I will work to streamline USDA programming, so that our farm programs don’t take a law degree to decipher.
Whether I was traveling the state, reading the farm bill, rallying in Sioux Falls or coming up with a plan to end the trade disputes quickly, I’ve been giving this race and this state my all. I won’t stop moving. Send me to Washington, D.C., and let me put that energy to work for you.
Johnson is a Republican businessman running for U.S. Congress to rein in federal spending, combat D.C. dysfunction, and return power to families, businesses, communities and states. He is a former South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner and former chief of staff to the governor. He is a husband, a father of three boys and vice president of a private sector engineering and consulting firm based in Mitchell. For more information, go to www.dustyjohnson.com.
U.S. House: George Hendrickson
I was born and raised in South Dakota and have lived in Mission (Rosebud Reservation), Rapid City, and currently reside in Sioux Falls.
I attended public and private schools, and since graduating have worked in the security/law enforcement and insurance industries and run my own maintenance services business.
My wife Kristin and I have three children, Payley, Piper and Eliyah. Each one inspires us to be engaged in our community.
My top issues:
- Citizen legislators: Our founders intended citizens, not political pros, lawyers, lobbyists or people with gobs of money, to represent the people.
- Consolidation and reform of bureaucracies: Must simplify IRS 74,000 pages of code and a socialized medical program that had 2,000+ pages and was passed without members being able to read it first.
- Continuity of governance: Require all government employees—including elected officials—to be subject to the laws they pass (including health care and retirement/pension provisions).
- Constitutional integrity: Return power to the states where citizens have access to their representatives who live with them.
As a father to a child with a rare life-threatening disability, I have spent years advocating to the state legislature on his behalf and the behalf of anyone who would benefit from the use of medical cannabis. I have spent years researching the different medical uses of this amazing plant and firmly believe that our government needs to open access to this plant for the sick and disabled.
My son has Medicaid as a supplement to our primary insurance. The role Medicaid plays in our society is crucial in obtaining a quality of life for the poor and disabled. I know we can implement programs, better programs, to help bridge the poor off of welfare and Medicaid that will achieve better long-term savings instead of slashing Medicaid’s funding by $1 trillion over 10 years. We are better than this; we can do better than this. We are the greatest nation on the planet and we don’t have to indiscriminately limit medical coverage for the disabled as our first action in repealing Obamacare.
For more information, go to www.georgehendrickson.com.
U.S. House: Ron Wieczorek
I decided to run for U.S. Congress in South Dakota because I cannot sit idly by while our nation is destroyed.
My program is based on Lyndon LaRouche’s Four Laws for Economic Recovery: (1) restore Glass-Steagall, (2) return to a national banking and credit system, like that utilized by Hamilton, Lincoln and Roosevelt, (3) use this credit for high-productivity-gain investment in infrastructure and manufacturing, and science-drivers, and (4) the development of fusion nuclear energy and a revival of our space program.
To meet these objectives rapidly we should collaborate with China’s economic development program called the Belt and Road Initiative, a project using the ideas of what used to be called the American System of political economy and reflecting LaRouche’s Four Laws. China has pulled millions out of poverty and is dedicated to eradicating it entirely; our nation should undertake a mission to do the same. China’s idea is that the U.S. and China should cooperate in developing the economies of the entire world. This vision is the basis for the friendship between President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.
The president’s efforts to change the established order have been hampered by an outrageous coup attempt conducted by our elites, in conjunction with the British, to change the results of the 2016 election. I am dedicated to ending that coup.
The president has also been trapped by partisan politics. I choose to stand above the parties and campaign and fight on principle. If the silent Americans who unexpectedly elected Trump, and want him to succeed, follow my stance and join me in campaigning on the principles of LaRouche’s Four Laws, we can actually cause the necessary changes in time to save our nation.
For more information, go to www.ronwforcongress.com.
Governor: Kristi Noem
It’s been a tough few years for farmers. As a lifelong producer, I’ve had those tough years too. We survived bad droughts, bad floods and bad policies, including the Death Tax. And while you can’t change the weather, you can change policy, which is exactly what I have worked to do.
In 2014, I helped successfully negotiate a strong farm bill that included livestock disaster assistance and critical safety nets for producers. When federal agencies considered proposals to regulate dust or limit the work some kids did on farms, I fought back—and won. During tax reform negotiations, I was one of the only farmers at the table, yet secured interest deductibility, immediate expensing and lower rates for farmers and ranchers as part of the historic tax cut.
If elected governor, I will stay grounded in the same principles these accomplishments are rooted in: I won’t raise taxes; I won’t grow government; I’ll fight the federal intrusion and work to increase transparency at all levels of government.
These principles are important, especially as we look to create an environment where the next generation of farmers can thrive. Today, the average South Dakota farmer is 57 years old, meaning many will be at or near retirement in the next decade. To meet our long-term needs, it’s time we ready the next generation to fulfill global food demands.
As governor, I will work to expand education and increase investments in production-boosting research, such as biotechnology and precision ag. Additionally, I will encourage strong support of 4-H and FFA programs; dramatically increase shared-learning opportunities among universities, technical programs and high schools for ag education and skills training; and continue investments into SDSU’s first-in-the-nation precision agriculture degree program, among other things.
I also want to build up our rural communities. Seeing our larger communities flourish is exciting, but we must make sure we don’t lose South Dakota’s rural culture either. As governor, I will work to bring more resources in to rural areas, expanding broadband, promoting economic development, enhancing healthcare and focusing on K-12 schools.
We must also take a look at the state’s infrastructure, making improvements to lower the basis for grain products in order to put more money in the hands of hardworking farmers.
Alongside this, I want to transition the state vehicle fleet to higher ethanol blends, such as E30. For years, I’ve strongly defended policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard and year-round E15. As governor, I will lead by example.
This is just a snapshot of my Agricultural Growth Initiative. Read the full proposal at kristiforgovernor.com/agriculture
The truth is South Dakota hasn’t had a farmer become governor in more than a generation. It’s time we change that. My experience as a producer—and specifically, a corn producer—will serve South Dakota’s ag community well as we work to develop the state’s rural economy and give more young people the opportunity to thrive as farmers in South Dakota. I would appreciate your support and your vote on Nov. 6.
Governor: Billie Sutton
I grew up in Burke helping on my family’s ranch, where I learned the South Dakota values of hard work, honesty, integrity and perseverance that farmers and ranchers often share. I graduated from Burke High School and went on to the University of Wyoming. I rodeoed in college and professionally until a career-ending rodeo accident left me paralyzed from the waist down. After my recovery, I was inspired to serve the community that stood behind me in my time of need.
I ran for the South Dakota Legislature and was elected to the State Senate in 2010, serving three more consecutive terms. During my time in the Legislature, I fought for economic and workforce development, education and transparency and ethics in government. Back home with my wife Kelsea and our 2-year-old son Liam, I work as an investment executive at our local community bank in Burke where I help farmers, ranchers and families plan for their futures. In both roles, I strive to make life better and brighter for South Dakotans and future generations.
I’m running for governor to put my values of hard work, honesty and integrity to work for South Dakotans. If elected, my administration’s priorities would be to strengthen our economy, create good-paying jobs across the state, improve healthcare and educational opportunities for families, and support our family farmers and ranchers. In order to carry out these priorities, we first need to restore South Dakotans’ trust in state government. That’s why I made transparency and accountability in government a central priority in my time in the legislature and why it’s at the core of this campaign. South Dakota needs a leader in the governor’s office willing to fight for the open, honest and accessible government South Dakotans deserve. I’ve fought to end corruption, ensure oversight, limit money in politics and keep our records and disclosures open and honest. I have a record of championing trust and transparency, and that will follow me into the governor’s office.
As you all know, agriculture remains the economic backbone of our state. When agriculture is strong, South Dakota is strong. That’s why my administration will support the pursuit of new market opportunities, not limiting access for producers through tariffs and trade wars where our farmers and ranchers bear the brunt of retaliation. My administration will advocate for labeling and promoting South Dakota products, providing property tax relief, expanding value-added ag through biotechnology and other innovations, and preserving our natural resources and small-town way of life. In the state Legislature, I supported legislation that encouraged ethanol use, and I will continue advocating for ways we can add value to our farm commodities and improve commodity prices, including fueling the state fleet with E-30.
Through focusing on the right priorities and being open, honest and transparent, I believe we can make South Dakota an even stronger and better place to live and raise our families. For more information about my plans and priorities, including my Planting Seeds of Growth: A Plan to Support Our Family Farmers and Ranchers, visit www.suttonforsd.com.
Governor: Kurt Evans
Kurt Evans, 48, of Wessington Springs, is the elder son of the late country musician Kyle Evans, who was named the official troubadour of South Dakota’s 1989 centennial celebration and inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
Evans studied mathematics and science education at South Dakota State University, graduating with academic honors in the class of 1993. He became a high school teacher and basketball coach and was eventually certified as a highly qualified teacher for more than a hundred core content assignments.
He ran for United States Senate in 2002 against Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican John Thune. In 2014, he received just over 48,000 votes (20.1 percent) as the Libertarian nominee for South Dakota State Auditor. He announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination for governor of South Dakota on May 19 and defeated C.J. Abernathey to win the nomination at the party’s state convention in Fort Pierre on June 9.
Evans says he believes he’s uniquely qualified to help his fellow South Dakotans understand and apply the principles of constitutional liberty.