Select Page

New ag chief is a first, too

    Farming: Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

If your first day on the new job flashes by like a ringneck pheasant breaking cover from a cornfield, you’re in the right place.

And that’s what happened to the new state agriculture secretary, Kim Vanneman.

“It seemed like it lasted one hour. There was a lot going on, with the staff getting me acclimated and showing me around. I loved it.”

Of all the fresh faces in Gov. Kristi Noem’s cabinet, Vanneman, 61, seems a perfect fit in her new post. She and her husband, Clint, operate a successful farm and ranch near Ideal in Tripp County. She keeps books for their business and knows the bigger picture through her work as a director with Farm Credit Services. She also served in the state Legislature.

Experience is important, but her love of farming and a desire to keep that way of life as an option for the next generation were key reasons she sought the state’s top ag job.

“The average age of a South Dakota farmer is 57,” the first female ag secretary points out. And though her son is involved in the family business, more has to be done to expand the ag economy and its opportunities.

She knew that the newly-elected governor felt the same way. When she saw Noem’s website inviting those with an interest in the new administration to apply, she sent in her resume.

Then the governor called.

“We just visited about the position, discussed expectations and decided we would be a good team.”

Vanneman, who grew up in Chamberlain, believes her priority of ensuring ag opportunities for the next generation fits in nicely with Noem’s stated goal of expanding the job market for the state’s young people. The governor and Noem share an ag background, and Vanneman says she supports Noem’s initiatives to educate youth in a way that will help them stay in the state.

Beyond that, there are pressing matters at hand, most of them beyond the state’s control.

“Right now the biggest challenge is the downturn in the ag economy we’ve been feeling in the last several years,” she said. “Good yields can’t make up for low prices.”

And the trade dispute and tariff dustup have added to the unease among farmers and ranchers.

Vanneman says all producers wish the trade and tariffs could be resolved

“We know ag is very cyclical and we’ll work through the cycle. There will be higher prices,” she said. “Things will get better.”

   Jan. 16, 2019