In South Dakota, we are fortunate to live on a landscape managed by dedicated farming and ranching families. For generations, they've known that their livelihoods depend on being good stewards of soil, water, livestock and wildlife. As we celebrate the natural resources that we cherish on Earth Day, we should applaud those who care for working lands protecting our land and water.
It is officially spring, and summer is around the corner. Now is a good time to plan a summer trip to one of our state parks. If not a week-long vacation, consider at least a weekend or weeknight stay.
To the Editor: This week marked the official end of the 2018 legislative session. It was also the last session for Rep. Lance Carson and Rep. Tona Rozum, both of Mitchell. Rep. Carson is retiring from the legislature after 10 years as a state representative. He served on the important appropriations committee, which is responsible for the state budget, and Rep. Carson deserves a lot of credit for our state's sound financial condition. Rep. Carson never sought attention, but many of his colleagues looked to him as an experienced legislator.
This past week, on Tuesday, March 20, we celebrated National Ag Day. It was a day proclaimed by the president to recognize the "preeminent role that agriculture plays in our daily lives" and "agriculture's continuing importance to rural America and our country's economy."
It has been three years since we reformed South Dakota's juvenile justice system. When the legislation was passed, South Dakota had the second highest juvenile incarceration rate in the country. It was nearly three times the national average. At the same time, our juvenile violent crime arrest rate was approximately one-third of the national average. We were locking up primarily non-violent juvenile offenders.
There are many things happening in our state that lead me to be hopeful about South Dakota's future, especially in the realm of economic development. Overall, 2017 was a great year in terms of economic development wins. The Governor's Office of Economic Development helped facilitate deals that total over $735 million in investment and are expected to create more than 1,400 new jobs.
Last year was another tough year for agriculture. After seeing a lack of moisture in the spring, we declared a statewide emergency in June. The drought persisted throughout the summer, and even today, as I write this, over 90 percent of the ground in the state is abnormally dry with almost 60 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought.
As a state, we grapple with many issues. Some are very complex, with no easy fix or single solution. These may require sustained effort over long periods, through different administrations and legislatures and generations of South Dakotans. Drug abuse is one such issue.
The legislative session commenced on Jan. 9 with my final State of the State Address. I began my speech by talking about workforce, which will be a focus in my last year as governor. From the perspective of businesses and employers, our state does not have enough workers in many skilled fields. This is a barrier to economic growth. We have companies that do not expand, or that turn away business, because they cannot hire enough skilled workers to do the work.
If you want to see the Christmas season in full display, make time to visit your state capitol for the annual displays created for Christmas at the Capitol. Each morning, as I walk into the Capitol Building, I am greeted by the rich aroma of pine trees and the sparkling reflection of Christmas lights on the ornaments that decorate those trees.