PIERRE -- The South Dakota Legislature is involved in numerous landowner rights and hunting-related bills, as well as grain elevator reporting in the wake of the Anderson Seed Co. sunflower fiasco that left farmers unpaid.
State Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, chairwoman of the South Dakota Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, S.D., a cattle rancher and chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, talked to Agweek about highlights in bills involving agriculture -- an industry that accounts for $21 billion of the state's $40 billion in gross state product.
One of the headline issues this session is landowner rights stemming from bills recommended by an interim summer task force in response to North Dakota's oil and gas boom. Krebs says theSouth Dakota Legislature wants to make sure South Dakota landowners have protections similar to North Dakota's.
South Dakota has seen the development of 12 new wells per year and produces 1.6 million barrels of oil from a total of 150 wells. Severance taxes produce about $5 million to $6 million a year. "We do know there will be more drilling in northwest South Dakota, but not to the extent of North Dakota," Krebs says.
Among this year's ag-related bills:
·SB 1 -- Oilfield bonds. This legislation revises provisions regarding plugging and performance bonds, or bonding in general. For the past 30 years, the state required only $5,000 in bonding per well drilled. With more wells being drilled in northwest South Dakota, the bonds were increased to $50,000. The state department of Environment and Natural Resources did some research to follow North Dakota's lead on the issue and will monitor to make sure South Dakota follows suit. The bill is expected to get a unanimous vote in favor.
·SB 59 -- Oilfield wastes. This bill says North Dakota oil drillers cannot cross the border and dispose of oil and gas field wastes in South Dakota. It passed in the Senate Jan. 28 with a 26-7 vote and is now in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
·SB 6 -- Ag land taxes. This legislation passed the Senate on Jan. 30 by a 24-11 vote and is now in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
In 2008, South Dakota began taxing land using a productivity model instead of market value. "We've had a continuing ag land assessment task force to just watch every year to see if there is anything that needs to be tweaked," Krebs says. SB 6 provides a tweak involving the actual use versus the highest and best use.
"If an individual says, 'I'm not going to put it in crop this year, but for management purposes, I'm going to decide to put it in grazing or grassland,' that's his personal choice," Krebs says. "And maybe it's because of a typography issue, or maybe it's got challenges that go with it." When the landowner asks for it, the assessor will come out and look at the topography of that land to see if it's appropriately taxed, she adds.
In the past few years, the Legislature has changed the cap on land valuation assessments to 15 percent per year. One example is Brown County, an area where land values had typically been under-assessed and have had to catch up, Krebs says.
·SB 183 -- Hunting trespass. This bill increases penalties for hunters going on land without proper notification. It passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously.
·SB 238 -- Wildlife damage control. This legislation asks the state to appropriate $300,000 to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department's animal damage control fund on an emergency, or immediate basis. This is especially aimed at helping landowners deal with wolf and coyote depredation problems. It is not to pay farmers for losses, but pays for control. The bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Sheep producers in the northwest and northeast parts of the state are among the most affected, Krebs says.
·SB 171 -- Animal cruelty. This would change "aggravated cruelty" to a felony offense relating to dogs, cats and horses. Horses in South Dakota statutes are defined as livestock, Krebs says, and that opens a gateway to other areas of concern for agricultural producers. On Feb. 12, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 7-1 to defer it to the 41st day, effectively killing the bill because the session is only 40 days.
·SB 155 -- Ag development infrastructure. Krebs is the primary sponsor of a bill that would create an agricultural development grant fund, open for applications from townships or counties. This would come into play where a county might otherwise reject a conditional use permit for an agricultural enterprise such as a co-op, facility or dairy where there is no local way to improve and maintain a road for that development. It was proposed at $5 million in one-time funding, administered by the South Dakota Transportation Commission.
"The dairy industry came and shared these challenges that they had with conditional use permits not being granted for one reason -- infrastructure," Krebs says. "We have a lot of dairy opportunities in South Dakota. We have 92,000 head of dairy in South Dakota and on that I-29 corridor, we have two large processing plants and a third coming in." The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 5 voted 7-0 to refer it to Senate Appropriations, where it passed 8-0 and then the full Senate, where it passed 32-1.
·HB 1123 -- Wildlife depredation control. This bill would increase the surcharge on hunting licenses from $5 to $6. Currently, half of the $5 surcharge goes to wildlife management for goose and deer depredation and the other half goes to a walk-in program for hunting.
Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City, a member of the ag committee in her last term in office, proposed a $1 increase in the surcharge. Money raised from the increase would be used entirely for wildlife management, hiring two to four state trappers. "Predators are not only killing our livestock, but also wildlife," Olson says. The House passed the bill 55-13 on Feb. 4 and the bill is now in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
·HB 1017 -- Grain warehouse finance reporting. Sponsored by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, the bill would increase the bonding for some areas, widen reporting ranges and shorten the window for financial reporting to the PUC.