South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (center) made his third consecutive visit to World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., this year. With 100,000 visitors to the show, it’s a good place to recruit dairies to South Dakota, he says. (Photo: Catherine Merlo)
For Gov. Dennis Daugaard, recruiting dairies to his home state is a high priority.
On Feb. 12, California Gov. Jerry Brown arrived 75 minutes late for a scheduled stop at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. Reportedly delayed by fog on his trip from Sacramento, it was his first known visit in years to what’s billed as the world’s largest farm show.
Brown stepped just inside the entrance gates and was quickly surrounded by a throng of news media. His responses to the few questions asked were brief and inaudible to most of the pack. Ten minutes later, the governor of the nation’s No. 1 agricultural state left the show grounds, trailed by dark-suited staffers and security detail in a black SUV.
At the same show the following day, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard spent several hours at his state’s exhibit inside the Farm Credit Dairy Center. The tall, congenial governor answered questions, posed for photos, lunched on a sandwich purchased from a show vendor, and beamed when pointing out South Dakota’s dairy benefits. It was Daugaard’s third visit since 2012 to World Ag Expo, the only farm show he attends outside of South Dakota.
It might simply have been a matter of unforeseen circumstances and scheduling gone awry. Or it might have been a matter of priorities. Whatever the reason, the World Ag Expo appearances of the two governors underscored stark contrasts between their states, where agriculture is the major industry in each. At a time when California is losing dairies – 387 since 2007, according to Western United Dairymen -- it may be no coincidence that South Dakota is seeing impressive dairy growth.
In the past 10 years, South Dakota’s milk production has grown by 51%, to 2.023 billion pounds. Since 2011 alone, the state’s dairy herd has increased 4% to reach 95,000 cows. An additional 20,750 head are expected this year from four newly permitted dairies. (Two are under the same California ownership.) The state’s 10th milk processing plant, the new $100 million Bel Brands USA facility, will go online this summer.
That dairy growth hasn’t happened by chance. A deliberate, aggressive effort to recruit more dairy business to the state is credited with much of South Dakota’s burgeoning milk and cheese success. The trail-blazing push is fueled from the upper echelons of South Dakota’s government -- specifically, by Gov. Daugaard.
Since first elected South Dakota’s governor in 2010, Daugaard has made it his mission to promote the state as a welcoming home for business. According to the official state website, Daugaard has emphasized job creation, sound fiscal management and efficient government operation.
Others agree. In 2012, Barron’s magazine named the Mount Rushmore State as its top pick in the nation for "Strength of State Finances." CNBC named South Dakota No. 1 in America’s Top States for Business in 2013. California was ranked No. 47.
- April 2014