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Fight for governorship takes Sutton, Noem to Black Hills

Democrat Billie Sutton and Republican Kristi Noem laid out dueling proposals Thursday, as their campaigns for South Dakota governor crossed through the Black Hills.

Sutton focused on farms and ranches during remarks in Rapid City, while Noem went to Hot Springs to speak about armed-forces veterans.

Sutton, who described himself as a fifth-generation farmer and rancher, criticized tariffs President Donald Trump has used or is threatening to disrupt trade with other nations. Noem has increasingly tied her candidacy to Trump this year as the Republicans' new leader.

Sutton's agriculture plan is titled "Planting Seeds for Growth." Among the firm promises, Sutton said he would: Push for country-of-origin labeling on South Dakota products; Convert state government's fleet to E-30 blend fuel; and Seek a change in state policy so land is taxed on actual use rather than highest and best use.

"Tax policy shouldn't dictate farmers' and ranchers' plans for their land," Sutton said.

That page resembled Noem's playbook from 2010, when she still served in the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Noem and then-Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, sponsored legislation that would have let owners of ground that had been grass for at least 10 years to ask that it be classified as non-cropland, even if the soil was rated for crops.

House members approved Noem's bill 48-21 but the Senate severely changed it. The bill eventually died in a conference committee. Soil ratings are still used, although county directors of equalization can make adjustments.

Noem won election to the U.S. House in 2010 and hasn't lost in three runs for re-election. 2010 was also the year Sutton was first elected to the state Senate.

Noem outlined her plan for veterans, called Operation: Rally Point, during a visit Thursday to the State Veterans Home in Hot Springs. She said she was committed to keeping the federal Veterans Affairs hospital open in Hot Springs.

Noem proclaimed the city as "The Veterans Town" and promised better customer service from the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

She also pledged to improve digital literacy among veterans so they can better access benefits and resources and noted that President Trump signed into federal law her legislation to triple the size of Black Hills National Cemetery.

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