May 6, 2022
When you think about South Dakota, you can’t help but picture the great outdoors. The beautiful Black Hills, with their mix of mountain ranges and rolling prairies. The mighty Missouri River — winding across the state and feeding thousands of miles of riverbed and streams. The picturesque Prairie Lakes and the wide-open fields that I call home. From the Badlands to farmlands, we’ve got plenty of reasons to go outside. Whether you are there to work or there to play, the outdoors benefits our economy, too. Especially in agriculture and in our hunting and fishing opportunities.
Agriculture is, of course, our state’s largest economic engine, and we are expanding opportunities for agriculture to grow our economy. We are expanding agriculture opportunities in several ways, including agritourism, value-added ag, and much more.
Agritourism is an industry that turns working farms into travel destinations, creating an interactive experience for visitors to see first-hand how their food is grown. With more people than ever visiting our state, I took steps to make it easier to start an agritourism business and provide more opportunities for visitors to our state to see what a life in agriculture has to offer. By tying in our second-largest industry — tourism — to our largest, we provide an opportunity for our farm families to diversify their operations and create another source of income.
Early in my administration, I tasked the Governor’s Office of Economic Development with generating more value-added ag production in our state. In the last 18 months, GOED has helped secure an estimated $627 million in capital investment for companies that process and add value to South Dakota-grown crops and livestock.
We have supported ranchers and consumers by giving grants to smaller meat processors and opening opportunities to ship state-inspected meat across state lines.
We also tie together agriculture and the promotion of South Dakota as the premier pheasant hunting destination. With my Second Century Habitat Initiative, we have provided farmers a financial opportunity to turn marginal acres into productive habitats for pheasants and other wildlife.
To date, we have enrolled thousands of acres across the state in Second Century Habitat programs. Between this and other public-private partnerships, we have added nearly 1.5 million acres of private land in the public access hunting programs. We’ve also been able to add almost 12,000 acres of food habitat plots, 36,000 acres of grassland restoration, and 15,310 acres of wildlife-friendly fencing.
As an avid hunter, I want to share South Dakota’s incredible outdoor opportunities with everyone who wants to come enjoy them and landowners play an important role in expanding access.
Since becoming governor, I have successfully streamlined hunting licenses to make it easier for residents and nonresidents to navigate. One big change has been the revamped website, which combines all outdoor-related activities: hunting/fishing licenses, park reservations, campgrounds, and more. And self-service kiosks (there are 96 around the state) provide a convenient way for visitors to pay for entrance fees, firewood, and campsite reservations.
We simplified duck hunting by providing an option for a 3-duck bag limit, which allows hunters to bag any three ducks rather than being restricted by species. That helps first-time duck hunters get involved in the sport. But I also want to see more young people to get interested in the outdoors.
To do that, we eliminated fishing licenses for all minors and streamlined youth hunting licenses to increase youth participation. We also revamped our youth mentoring program that partners experienced hunters with novice outdoorsmen and women. One of the most successful youth programs has been our Nest Predator Bounty Program, which currently has nearly half of all participants under age 18.
These are just some of the ways we are continuing to promote the amazing outdoor adventures that are accessible to everyone in South Dakota. I hope that everyone takes time this year to get outdoors and enjoy all the beauty South Dakota has to offer.