The South Dakota Pork Producers Council (SDPPC) is working as hard as it can to prevent a "going, going, gone" situation in the state's pork industry.

The urgency speaks for itself in the downward sloping line on the above graph. Dakota Pork, Huron, SD, one of two South Dakota packing plants, closed its doors in 1997.

South Dakotans will be making a big decision about the state's swine industry during the November 1998 elections. A ballot initiative, "Amendment E," would amend the state's constitution. Under the amendment, unrelated family farmers could no longer engage in farming as part of a corporation or syndicate. Contract feeding of livestockfor corporate entities, as well as other now-legal business structures such as limited liability companies would be banned, says Tom Farnsworth, SDPPC executive secretary. Amendment E is modeled in part after Nebraska's Initiative 300 law.

"After a careful study of the amendment, the SDPPC delegate body voted 40 to 11 to oppose it," he says. "We are joined in this position by other state associations. Collectively, we oppose Amendment E because it would restrict business options and opportunities in value-added agriculture at a time when farmers and ranchers need as much flexibility as possible to survive."

Two bills passed during the 1998 legislative session complement an already strong set of environmental regulations, Farnsworth says.

The first bill imposes legal responsibility and tort liability for environmental damages caused by negligence either by the person who owns the hogs, or the person contracting to take care of the pigs.

The second bill creates an environmental livestock waste clean-up fund within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The bill applies to all livestock, and was started with $750,000 from the state. Monies collected via fines from the party responsible for manure spills will go back into the fund.

Two defeated bills would have imposed moratoriums on new or expanded livestock feeding operations.

Local control decides the direction of swine expansion in the state. A wide variety of conditions currently exist, depending on the county, and in some cases, the township.

Although hog numbers are still low in South Dakota, the industry is marshaling its forces and starting to re-build.

Regular bus tours take students, lenders and producers to see available pork production options, from hoop barns to wean-to-finish facilities.

"We are trying to make people aware of the new technologies available in the industry," says Roland VanDerWerff, SDPPC director of producer education.