If one were to give a State of the Conference Address for the Dakota Conference, it would conclude that 2019 was a difficult year for the farmers and ranchers of North and South Dakota. Due to the agrarian and commodity-driven economy of the Dakotas, ups and downs are reflected in tithes and offerings. After 10 good years of tithe increase with a high in 2014, the trend suddenly reversed.
The Argus Leader reported, “A 5-year slide in the agricultural economy in South Dakota and across the Great Plains has left many producers operating at a loss and is putting some in jeopardy of losing their farms.”1
Brian K. Sullivan reported for Bloomberg that, “The U.S. had 14 weather disasters costing $1 billion or more last year, with Midwest flooding accounting for almost half of the total, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”2 Many have said, I’m glad 2019 is in the rearview mirror.
North Dakota farmers were able to plant their crops, but many South Dakota farmers were not. One South Dakota farmer remarked, “We never turned a wheel.” Another said he didn’t need any more moisture until July of 2020. 2019 was particularly bad because the fields were too wet to harvest. Farmers who tried got mired in the field so deeply their combines were torn apart as they were extracted. There is still a lot of corn in the field.
However, the downturn is not all weather related. Prices of commodities have been on the slide since 2014 as well.
Unharvested crops tend to lose quality. “In 2018, spring wheat had a lot of ergot fungi damage. In 2019, almost all of the small grains in the whole state had ergot. It was so wet everywhere,” said one North Dakota farmer. “Other states in the Midwest dealt with the same issues, but not the whole state like in the Dakotas.”
Cowboys haven’t had it easy either. During the last five years, cattle prices have gone down significantly. One rancher remarked, “There is water halfway up on my bales. A rancher told me the hay would eventually dry, but I am not feeding that to my cows. It could cause all sorts of problems. I’ll just have to sell off my cows.”
Another rancher, when shown the conference tithe comparison chart, said, “I can tell you the calf prices for each of those years. They reflect the decline in tithe.”
One farmer concluded, “At some point it is going to stop going down. There is no way to predict necessarily when, but it will turn. The optimism would be, everything goes in cycles. At some point it is going to stop going down.”
At the January Dakota Conference pastors’ meetings, Dr. Joseph Kidder presented biblical fasting and prayer as an avenue for a personal connection with God. The pastors recommended a conference-wide week of prayer and fasting March 1-7. This will coincide with other days of prayer.
Dakota Conference prayer coordinator Barry St. Clair regularly participates with the NAD monthly all-night prayer call and plans to present Dakota Conference to the NAD prayer team March 5.
March 6 is World Day of Prayer, and March 7 is Women’s International Day of Prayer scheduled on the NAD calendar. During this week the Dakota Conference solicits your prayers as well.
1. Pfankuch, Bart. “Stressed South Dakota Farmers Facing Continuing Economic Decline.” www.argusleader.com/story/ news/2019/04/01/stressed-farmers-face-continuing-economic-decline-south-dakota-news-watch/3331175002/
2. Sullivan, Brian K. (2020). “U.S. Had 14 Weather Disasters Costing $1 billion or More in 2019.” www. farmprogress.com/weather/us-had-14-weather-disasters-costing- 1-billion-or-more-2019