Legislative Highlights 8-7-13

Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:20 am


Last week I provided some additional thoughts and comments on the South Dakota fiscal year completed June 30, 2013. Some information released this past week showed additional signs of a strengthening economy in South Dakota. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released their June unemployment numbers. South Dakota dropped to 3.9% for June, the first time South Dakota has been under 4.0% since the downturn in the national economy. The only state in the nation with a lower unemployment rate for June was North Dakota at 3.1%. The two highest are Puerto Rico at 13.2% and Nevada at 9.6% with the national average at 7.6%.

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce also released their gross domestic product (GDP) information for 2012 by state. South Dakota’s (GDP) was up 1.9% for 2012 at $42.46 billion. This followed a 2011 gain of 8.8% to $41.67 billion. The drought of 2012 affected agriculture in South Dakota and that sector showed a decrease in GDP compared to 2011; however the manufacturing sector was up by 10% for the 5th highest increase in the nation for that sector. The manufacturing increase shows the value of building a diverse state and local economy.

South Dakota has worked hard to develop a diverse economy, but our primary industry in this state is still agriculture. Agriculture affects our state and local economies and our state and communities’ budgets whose primary source of revenue is from sales tax. Bottom line is if farming and ranching are good, the producers spend their earnings in our communities which helps our local businesses.

I’d like to share some information from the 2013 South Dakota Department of Agriculture publication. The ag industry in our state has a $21.4 billion economic impact. Agriculture accounts for more than all the other sectors combined in our state’s economy. Ag’s production and value added processing employ over 122,000 South Dakotans. There are 19 million acres of cropland in our state and 23 million acres of pastureland. I would guess with the conversion we’re seeing of pastureland to cropland that someday we may see cropland acres outnumber pastureland.

Approximately one third of the agriculture production value produced in our state is livestock related with the other two thirds in crops. Half the farms and ranches in the state have beef cattle with 5% or less who have hogs, sheep or dairy cattle. However, the economic impact of a dairy cow is $14,042, a sow is $6,093, a beef cow is $1,735 and a ewe is $251. Corn is our number one crop with nearly 5 million acres harvested annually with approximately 40% being used for ethanol production.

South Dakota annually has one of the largest ag expos in the country with our own South Dakota State Fair. I’d encourage everyone to make plans to attend this year’s State Fair, but prior to that make plans to attend the Beadle County 4-H Achievement Days. I’d also encourage all businesses and individuals to attend the Beadle County 4-H Premium sale on August 9th at 7:00pm at the 4-H complex on the state fairgrounds. The barbeque starts prior to the sale at 5:30. Congratulations to the Kingsbury County 4-H on having an outstanding Achievement Days. In addition, I’d like to also thank the Iroquois community for hosting a great Sports Day and Arlington for another great Arlington Days. My wife, Suzanne, and I enjoyed all the festivities and parades. We were sorry we missed Wessington Fun Days due to an out of state family gathering but plan to return next year.

I’m proud of my farming background and even prouder of our state’s ag industry. Thank you to everyone for your interest in state government and again thank you for allowing me to represent you. I look forward to hearing from you at 350-1371 or by email at dickwerner_5@hotmail.com.

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Legislative Highlights

In last week’s column I mentioned that I was one of twelve South Dakota lawmakers to take an educational “Electric Cooperative Tour” in July to better understand how the power generation process works in our state. Our tour began at the East River Electric plant for a history lesson. Next we met at Basin Electric Headquarters in North Dakota. The tour continued in North Dakota as we visited the Antelope Valley Station, the Great Plains Synfuels Plant and the Freedom Mine.

In the United States, Basin Electric Power Cooperative is one of the largest electric generation and transmission cooperatives. It is the parent company of eight subsidiaries. The idea of the regional power supplier interested many distribution cooperatives and led to the formation of what we know today as Basin Electric Power Cooperative. Basin Electric was formed on the premise that it would provide power for intermediate generation and transmission cooperatives. This power would be low-cost because of economies of scale. Basin electric is managed by a board of directors elected from the membership and run in a manner consistent with cooperative principles.

Basin Electric’s core business is generating and transmitting wholesale bulk electric power to customers, primarily to 137 member rural electric systems located in nine states: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Basin’s current corporate profile consists of the following:

Basin is a not-for-profit generation and transmission cooperative incorporated in 1961 to provide supplemental power to a consortium of rural electric cooperatives.

It has a diverse energy portfolio: coal, gas, oil, nuclear, distributed and renewable energy, including wind power.

Its members’ service territories comprise 540,000 square miles in the nine states served.

By the end of 2013 Basin Electric will operate 4,824 megawatts (MW) of wholesale electric generating capacity. It will also have 5,289.2 MW of capacity within its generation portfolio.

Basin Electric owns 2,165 miles and maintains 2,250 miles of high-voltage transmission, and owns and maintains equipment in 70 switchyards and 149 transmission sites.

And finally Basin Electric serves 2.8 million electric consumers.

One key to Basin Electric providing low-cost power for its members was an agreement with Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). Basin Electric signed a pooling agreement with WAPA to deliver power across the federal transmission system. It pays for the transmission based on the amount of megawatts generated.

Nationwide, electric cooperatives distribute power for 75 percent of the U.S. land mass over 2.4 million miles of power lines and serve more than 42 million Americans. Collectively, South Dakota’s electric distribution cooperatives are the only electric utility to serve in each of our 66 counties. Nationally rural electric cooperatives average 5.8 meters and generate about $7,000 per mile of line. In contrast, investor-owned utilities, or public utility districts, average 35 consumers and collect $59,000 per mile of line. South Dakota’s electric cooperatives, however, average 2.37 meters per mile of power line, well below the national average.

Indeed, the “Electric Cooperative Legislative Tour” was informative. Next week I’ll elaborate on our tour of the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, the Antelope Valley Station and the Freedom Mine. Thanks for your interest in South Dakota state government. Please feel free to contact me at (605) 352-9862 or peggygibson@hotmail.com.

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