Building partnerships: PF's Vincent speaks on conservation efforts

SIOUX FALLS--The keynote speaker at the 33rd annual South Dakota Corn Growers Association's meeting was one who hopes his organization will have a stronger connection with corn farmers moving forward.

Pheasants Forever CEO and President Howard Vincent addresses a crowd of 700 corn farmers and guests at the 33rd annual South Dakota Corn Farmers Association meeting in Sioux Falls on Saturday. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)

SIOUX FALLS-The keynote speaker at the 33rd annual South Dakota Corn Growers Association's meeting was one who hopes his organization will have a stronger connection with corn farmers moving forward.

"Organizationally, we are all in with South Dakota Corn," said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever. "I promise you, we'll work together closely. I promise you, we'll listen and help where we can. And we will be looking forward, we won't be looking backward."

Vincent told the approximately 700 people in attendance that the events leading up to his delivering the keynote - something he said would have been out of the question in past years - began when he first met SDCGA Executive Director Lisa Richardson about two years ago. That's when she asked him if Pheasants Forever had an opinion on what producers grow on their land.

"It's not Pheasants Forever's business what producers grow," Vincent said Saturday night at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. "I believe there's room for conservation on every single farm. ... It is not our business how that corn is used. Whether it's for corn flakes, cows, ethanol, fiber, chemicals - it's not our business."

Instead, Vincent said Pheasants Forever wants to teach farmers that sustainability and conservation can go hand in hand on farmland, and that a partnership between Pheasants Forever and corn farmers is encouraged by provisions of the recently passed federal farm bill.


"Looking at the programs in this farm bill, the (Soil Health and Income Protection Program) ... you have to recognize, this tool is not for everyone, but when you need it, the tools should be there for you," Vincent said.

Vincent said farmers who place more of an emphasis on conservation would benefit not only wildlife and pollinators, but could increase the amount of acreage with productive soil for farmers.

Vincent's keynote speech was preceded by comments from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson.

Thune referenced that the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) was introduced two years ago at the SDCGA annual meeting.

"I'm delighted that (Vincent) is here and to see the partnerships that have occurred between agriculture and the conservation community, the wildlife community," Thune said. "We worked really hard to build some of those bridges and to find the areas where everyone can work together toward a common goal, and I think we've succeeded in doing that."

Vincent, Thune and Noem all spoke about the importance of focusing on the future. For Vincent and Thune, that meant building partnerships and making sure the farm bill is implemented correctly, while Noem hopes to focus on training the next generation of South Dakotans on agricultural success through 4-H, FFA and education at technical schools and colleges.

Rounds also said he thinks it's important to keep younger people in the state.

"I'm very proud that agriculture's our No. 1 industry," Noem said, "but I also know that we have opportunities here to make you more prosperous, to give you more opportunities to make revenue off your land, to keep our next generation here and allow them to use new technologies to be successful for many generations to come."


Thune, Rounds and Johnson addressed some of their priorities for the current legislative session that impact corn farmers most directly, such as improving national transportation like rail transport of agricultural products, finalizing international trade deals and pushing for increased amounts of ethanol in fuel blends.

"We are with you on the front lines. There is not an inch of sunlight between what South Dakota Corn and our delegation thinks about these critical issues," Johnson said. "I am very excited to be working as a part of this delegation."

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks about the farm bill at the Sioux Falls Convention Center on Saturday night. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)

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