Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bears Repeating: Reader Lanny Stricherz Goes Off On South Dakota GOP Congressional Candidate Dusty Johnson.

    This is Lanny's letter-to-the-editor in yesteday's Sioux  Falls Argus Leader:

Are you sure that you want Dusty Johnson to represent you in the US House of representatives? As a member of the PUC, he voted to approve the first Trans Canada Keystone pipeline, which leaked within the first six months of its existence and several times since. 

He voted to approve the BigStone II coal burning power plant, which was eventually turned down by the Minnesota PUC, because of its potential damage to Big Stone Lake as well as surrounding lakes in both Minnesota and South Dakota. 

He voted to approve the Hyperion oil refinery and coal burning power plant in the Elk Point area which eventually failed because the founders could not get investors,because they could see the potential damage to prime farm land and the extreme amount of Missouri River water which would be needed for the refinery and power plant. 

He has voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which Nebraska is refusing to approve, because of possible damage to the Ogallala aquifer as well as other waters and lands. 

After standing for re-election in 2010 and winning, Mr Johnson ignored the vote of the people and took a job as Chief of Staff in the Governor’s office even though he had been reelected. Who’s to say that he won’t do the same if elected to the US House of representatives, and the President wants him to serve in some climate change denier position in the executive branch?

A better option is Tim Bjorkman, who is the Democratic candidate. He refuses to take money from the Democratic Party, any of the PACs including labor unions. He will only take private donations because he wants to represent the people and their interests and help to end the corruption in government. 

Lanny Stricherz
Sioux Falls SD

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

First Up In My Ballot Question Run-Through: Initiated Measure 24, Banning Out-Of-State Contributions To Ballot Question Committees. I'm Agin' It.

     I'm like a lot of frustrated, disgusted, wary and just plain tired South Dakotans who are fed
IM-24?  NO!
Good Intent, Lousy Outcome
up with our state being used as some sort of political laboratory. 
In 2016, more than $10 million was spent by out of state interests on South Dakota ballot issues that were designed as marketing vehicles for agendas promoted throughout the country.  It's relatively cheap to run a campaign here, and a win in South Dakota would give supporters some serious credibility as they pursued their aims in other states.  Payday lending, victim rights, campaign finance reform . . . they and other measures were on the ballot, and the money for and against them poured in.    We have good reason to be tired of the process, and the frustration led to a measure, IM-24, on this November's ballot meant to put the practice to a halt.  It's easy to support the intent, but the outcome?  That's another story.

     I certainly share the vexation, but then again, who in this state, or the entire country for that matter, hasn't been frustrated at one time or another by some of the hassles created by the delirium that is sometimes called Democracy?  Like it or not, Initiated Measure 24, which would ban "individuals, political action committees, and other entities from outside South Dakota from making contributions to ballot question committees," has some decent intentions, but that's where its positives stop.
     First off, there's the issue of its constitutionality.  In assessing IM-24's chances of a constitutional challenge should the measure pass, South Dakota's Legislative Research Council Director Jason Hancock said last June  in a letter to IM-24 supporters that "contribution limits to ballot question committees . . . have been viewed by the [U.S.Supreme] court as a restraint on the rights of association and free speech." Secondly, it just doesn't seem right, much less constitutional.  I know I'd be plenty put off by a law that, just because I live in South Dakota, would keep me from sending in a contribution to a committee pushing a ballot issue in, say, Nebraska, if I had an interest in the outcome.  The whole conversation has a "no way" quality to it.
     IM-24's dubious constitutional prospects along with its self-evident repudiation of the fundamental rights of Americans has led to some strange bedfellowing.  Writing in opposition to the measure are Ben Lee, state director of the Koch brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity ("I believe that citizens should have the right to support the causes and issues they believe in").  Simultaneously Cory Heidelberger, whose Dakota Free Press blog has proven over the years to be about as antithetical to Americans For Prosperity as anyone can get, has said that  IM-24 "is a step in an unconstitutional direction."  That these two stalwarts of their respective and utterly contradictory worldviews can unify in their opposition to this measure says much about its inherently obnoxious nature.  IM-24 just plain doesn't cut the mustard and should be resoundingly defeated by South Dakota's voters.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

China's Serenade To American Soybean Producers: Got Along Without You Before I Met You, Gonna Get Along Without You Now.

         knew this would happen.   I just knew it.  Chinese agronomists and hog producers are adjusting to life without American soybeans. Turns out they've been using more than they've needed all along, so the downside alteration to their hog industry's soy consumption won't be that difficult to navigate.  Separate items from the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post last month and Reuters this morning tell a story that will probably set off some profound changes in America's heavily Chinese trade-dependent soybean industry, which of course has some huge implications for South Dakota farmers, who this year will raise nearly 300 million bushels of soybeans.  At around $8/bushel, that's a multi-billion dollar industry, and it's one that has already taken a sizable hit thanks to President Trump and his tariff-fixation over China.  China's retaliation to Trump's gratuitous tantrum, slapping a 25% tariff on its imports of American soybeans, has driven the market down by about $2/bushel, accounting for a $600 million reduction in the value of this year's South Dakota harvest.  That's a lot of money to a state with just over 800,000 residents, and I have no doubt South Dakota's general economy will take direct and indirect hits as result.                                                                                                                                                      So what is it that's happening to China's hog production that will permanently alter America's soybean industry?  Just this.  China has been "importing far more soybeans than it really needed and could do without American imports," according to a Beijing-based agribusiness consultant named Ma Wenfeng.  Turns out that Chinese pig producers can get along with about 65 million tons of soybeans a year, but have been importing about 95 million tons, nonetheless.  That 30 million ton "surplus" is just about how much they've been importing every year from the United States.  Relatively low cost and easy access to supplies have induced Chinese producers to use soymeal for about 20% of their feed requirements even though the science of optimizing feed ingredients to provide the best nutrition at the lowest cost has reduced the soy requirement to about 12%.  Ma notes that "we have plenty of replacements for soymeal, such as peanut meal, cotton meal and rapeseed meal" to replace the protein content of soymeal.  Chinese producers can also add the amino acid lysine to replace soymeal protein.  The changeover to the lower soymeal requirement has been slow because so many producers in China don't have the financial incentive to overhaul feeding systems and formulas, according to Reuters.
    But now that soy prices have escalated because of China's retaliatory tariffs, the incentives
American Soymeal Ration
Soon To Be Reduced
to switch over to lowered-soy content feed are there. 
The wide application of the know-how will permanently affect the 36-year long relationship between Chinese hog producers and American soybean farmers, which up to now has been worth about $13 billion a year.  Considering that soybean sales to China before it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 were about $2 billion a year, the value of trade alliances should be self-evident to South Dakotans, who must be asking themselves why Trump is doing what he's doing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Cat Came Back

       Government reformers in South Dakota remind me of the cat in that great old campfire
Cats And Reformers . . .
They Just Keep Coming Back
Like that persistent and determined feline who wouldn't go away no matter how hard its master tried to get rid of him, they just keep coming back, and they "spend their nights 'a howlin' " til our legislators "can't get no sleep."  Shunted aside after the IM-22 debacle of a couple of years ago, this determined group of activist cats, led by Mitch Richter and Darrell Solberg, just keep on coming back.  IM-22 was the ballot initiative that won with 52% of the vote in 2016. It dramatically reformed government and campaign operations in our state.  It required additional disclosures and reporting by candidates for office, it lowered and limited contribution amounts, it severely constricted lobbyist gifts to state officials, and it created an ethics commission to oversee campaign finance and lobbying laws.  It also contained a provision to provide public funding for political campaigns.
     That last element caused me to oppose the measure, but it passed fair and square, much to the consternation of South Dakota's established political class, dominated by Republicans.  As South Dakota's initiative process has no restriction on when or how elected legislators can repeal or amend citizen-approved initiatives, the state's GOP-dominated legislature proceeded to dismantle IM-22 during the following session in 2017, not waiting for a court challenge to the measure that was headed for the South Dakota Supreme Court after an injunction in a lower court put the initiative on
Maybe This Time
They Will
hold.   Effectively eradicating the voter's will, reform-averse officials in Pierre set off quite the outraged reaction, with noisy and loud demonstrations occurring at the capitol as the political debauchery occurred.  Even as a foe of the measure, I was as chagrined by the arrogant and cynical rejection of the voters' will as those who supported IM-22
     Which is why I'm supporting the reform measure that will be on this November's ballot, dubbed Constitutional Amendment W.  Sans the public financing of campaigns that turned off a lot of potential supporters of the last reform measure, Amendment W is exclusively about changing existing campaign financing and lobbying laws, and, most strategically, won't allow alterations to it without voter approval.  The element that should most appeal to the reform-minded is the establishment of a government accountability board that will have some sanction-imposing teeth.  Considering the depth and breadth of a couple of horror stories involving state-managed programs (EB-5 and Gear Up) which resulted in multimillion dollar fiascos along with murders and suicides, a visible and active accountability component in Pierre seems overdue.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Move Over Farm Groups. South Dakota's Business Community Also Has Good Reason To Fight The Trump Slump.

     Seems like up to now the only unified opposition to President Trump's ill-conceived
Scaring them off?
I think so.
tantrum has come from farm groups in this country.  That's about to change.  City folks are finally getting fed up and the mobilization against his trade policies is gaining some serious momentum. A coalition of trade associations representing farmers, retailers and manufacturers throughout the United States has coalesced into a group called Americans For Free Trade.   The 80 or so coalition members represent some ultra high-powered associations, including the American Petroleum Institute, Telecommunications Industry Association, and the National Retail Federation. The group is about to launch a $3 million campaign dedicated to fighting Trump's tariffs.                                                                                                                                                                                South Dakotans have some interest in this.   Our state's main retail trade group, the South Dakota Retailer's Association (SDRA, an effective and efficient association of which I've been a satisfied member for many years) shows up on the National Retail Federation's website as one of the 50 state retail associations that NRF describes as "the tip of the spear" when it comes to "retail public policy and government relations in state capitols across the nation." I'd be surprised if the South Dakota group will take a position or involve itself in the tariff issues that South Dakota's farmers have to deal with, but I wish they would.   Retailers, especially those (like me) with interests in the lodging industry, have a stake in our global business relationships.
     Foreign tourists matter.  Calling it the "Trump Slump,"  Forbes magazine last month noted that the U.S. share of international travel has dropped "sharply" during Donald Trump's tenure in the White House, falling by  6%, costing the U.S. 7.4 million visitors and $32 billion in 2017. Forbes says there's likely to be more this year.  So far in 2018, visitations to Mt. Rushmore have fallen by about 6%That would be 108,000 visitors.  Nationally, National Park visitations have dropped by 8.4 million, or nearly 4%.  I think the dropoff in foreign visitation accounts for much of this.  A strong U.S. Dollar might have a bit to do with it, but Forbes research on the fluctuating value of the Dollar and tourism patterns don't give the theory much credence.  The influential business advocacy group Business Forward, which featured the situation last summer in a piece about the "Trump Slump," makes it hard to draw any other conclusion. Now that there's a powerfully mobilized national group of businesses working to stop the negative effects of President Trump's ill-advised tariff wars, South Dakota's business community has reason to consider doing the same thing. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

When Does The Winning Start, President Trump? Farmers Will Get A 13% Haircut This Year. And The Hair Loss Could Become Permanent.

     South Dakota's overwhelming mandate for Donald Trump (he carried the state with 62%
Mr. President,
What Am I Supposed To Do With These?
of the vote in '16, nearly twice Hillary Clinton's total) hasn't paid off where it counts--in the pocketbook--for our state's biggest industry, agriculture. 
The USDA last week published its projections for American farm income in 2018, and it says farm income across the country is likely to fall by 13% (about 15% in inflation-adjusted dollars, to 2002 levels, and that number includes government payments).  There are no state-specific projections yet, but considering that the price of soybeans has fallen about 20%   ($2/bu) since last year's crop was harvested, this year's 280 million bushels of SD's soon-to-be-harvested soybeans will take an enormous hit.  Ditto our state's corn harvest of 825 million bushels, which has seen about a 10% price erosion since last year's crop came inAt around 50 cents a bushel, that's another humongous drop in cash receipts. Our entire ag economy-dependent state has good reason to be nervous.
     The old canard about presidents having little, if anything, to do with the general economy has much validity to it.  But when it comes to specific sectors in the American economy, it's been plenty obvious up to now that presidential meddling with markets can make a huge difference.  The damage to crop prices and farm income are directly connected to the tariff wars created by Donald Trump.  Last July American Soybean Association President (and Iowa farmer) John Heisdorffer said "producers cannot weather sustained trade disruptions."  Those sentiments were simulateously echoed by American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who said "we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets."  This theme runs steadily through the discourse of all the major ag groups I can think of, yet it seems to fall on indifferent, if not altogether deaf, ears in the White House.
     The short term fix of direct payments to farmers that was announced last July was the administration's way of trying to at least partially mollify farmers that are getting the short end of the tariff stick.  But there are two elements of these payments that need to be noted.  The drop in 2018 farm income includes those payments, which, helpful as they are, don't make farmers anywhere close to being whole after the market devastation that's occurred this year.  And the payouts don't address the all important issue of global market share disruptions that will occur once American soybeans are landlocked during a trade war.  Loss of market share to our biggest soybean buyer, China, could be permanently crippling.  Forbes magazine notes that China can expand its own production by incentivizing farmers and, in time, can find producers like Brazil and other suppliers in Asia and possibly Africa who will increase their  production in order to fill the gap created by tariff-burdened American soybeans.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Are South Dakota Republicans Hypocrites When It Comes To Following Campaign Finance Laws? Guest Poster Janette McIntyre Thinks So.

Hypocrisy At its Finest

The campaign of Democrat Billie Sutton, running for Governor of South Dakota,  has taken a swipe at Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Larry Rhoden for a campaign finance violation.   They have him dead to rights, but who cares?

Recently, Dan Lederman, GOP State Chairman said that laws matter.  If political parties don’t have their ducks in a row they shouldn’t be allowed to put candidates on the ballot.  He took it upon himself to make the Democrats have a “do over” for their convention.   He also filed a Writ of Prohibition to keep Constitution Party candidates off of the ballot.

I happened to be one of the candidates that the court decision kept off of the ballot.
At the Constitution Party convention I was nominated to be a candidate for SD District 34 Senate.   I don’t believe that Dan Lederman’s effort was in anyway directed at me but you have to wonder what he was afraid of.

Did the Constitution Party represent a real threat to the Republican Party?  Normally I would have said, “no.”  We may have been an irritation at best to be ignored.

This year however, I believe the Republican Party is facing their own internal struggles.   Some, like myself, a lifelong Republican, have left the party.   The party didn’t leave me, the party elite worked against me.  Party faithful, even those who are still hanging in there doing their best to be the good soldiers, are having their own moral reservations with the elite of the party.

It has never been more evident that the rules only apply to a few.  They apply to the Democrats, they apply to the Libertarians, they apply to the Constitution Party but they do NOT apply to all Republicans equally.   The state GOP  has the funds to file lawsuits continues to prevail.

What should concern all South Dakotans of every political party is that these very laws are written by Republicans who do not enforce them consistently and who do not always obey them.  There is the first real travesty.

As long as there are insignificant two party representations and god forbid a single Independent, Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate elected the current state of affairs in South Dakota will never change.    There is the second real travesty.

No man, not even Dan Lederman as hard as he may try, will be able to stop South Dakotans who will vote to make a change in 2018.   The rein of the elite is indeed being challenged this year.   Many party faithful are stating that for the first time they too will not be voting Republican.  Electing the same candidates time after time and expecting a different result is not just the definition of insanity it will be the third travesty.

South Dakota voters will be able to send a clear message on November 6th.    I hope voters will look to the person, not the party to make a smart choice.