Resolution to halt Noem’s agency merger fails in Senate

March 8, 2021 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — An effort to halt Gov. Kristi Noem from merging government agencies that oversee agriculture and the environment narrowly failed in the Senate on Monday.

Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert introduced a resolution that would have stopped the merger of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Noem has billed the new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources as a “one-stop” shop for farmers and ranchers that would save the state about $450,000 by eliminating five positions.

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But Heinert argued that oversight should remain separated, both to protect the environment and best serve farmers and ranchers.

“This could change the trajectory of ag and the environment for generations to come,” he said.

A number of Republicans joined Heinert’s effort, but it failed by a single vote. The merger is set to take effect in April.

Noem’s merger had split the two largest groups representing farmers. The South Dakota Farm Bureau supported it, while the South Dakota Farmers Union opposed it.