Throughout South Dakota’s history, agriculture has been the force that’s driven the state’s economy.
Although tourism, financial services and other industries are important, nothing comes close to agriculture. More than 30 percent of South Dakota’s total output, or $25.6 billion, is accounted for by production agriculture and related industries.
In short, what’s good for agriculture is good for South Dakota’s economy.
About 30 percent of the state’s corn crop goes to ethanol plants. This gives our economy another bump. Not only does it support jobs, but it conserves resources by providing markets nearby for farmers. The byproducts of ethanol manufacturing are distillers grain, a valuable animal feed, and corn oil, which can be used to produce biodiesel.
Another key market for corn and soybeans is livestock. Currently about 80 million bushels of South Dakota’s corn crop will be fed in-state to beef cattle, dairy cows, hogs, poultry, bison and other livestock.
Just like ethanol, livestock production provides a value-added use for the state’s corn crop. The economic activity it creates goes far beyond jobs on livestock farms. There’s transportation, equipment, construction, veterinarians, processing plants and more, all of which generate tax income and create jobs.
Research shows that a diversified mixture of crop farms and livestock farms is the most sustainable agricultural system.
“Historically, we’ve exported calves and we’ve exported corn from South Dakota,” says Joe Cassady, head of South Dakota State University’s Animal Science Department. “When you’re doing both of those and they’re going to neighboring states to the south, it’s obvious that somebody else is taking advantage of the quality of livestock we have in South Dakota and the abundance of feed that we have.’”
According to SDSU Extension, growing South Dakota’s livestock industries will help restore some of the diversity to the state, since farmers in some parts of the state have switched entirely away from animal agriculture and now grow only cash crops.
Livestock and crop farms work together to make a stronger overall system of agriculture. Cassady says it’s positive to have “livestock operations interspersed with grain farms in a community. The livestock operation can use the feed and in return the farming operations can use the nutrients.”