PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Increased exports will play a key role in the continued growth of South Dakota's agricultural industry, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Wednesday.
Daugaard told people attending the annual Governor's Ag Development Summit that 90 percent of the world's population lives outside the United States.
"We need to continue to remember most of our buyers are out there, not back here," Daugaard said.
About 200 people attended the summit, which featured discussions on how to expand South Dakota agricultural industry. Subjects ranged from providing loans to help beginning farmers and ranchers to promoting more processing of agricultural products within the state.
Daugaard said South Dakota has increased its total agricultural exports from $535 million in 2008 to $691 million in 2012. Daugaard has led trade missions the past two years to China, where South Dakota's agricultural exports have grown from $8 million in 2008 to $54 million last year.
The governor has said South Dakota companies can sell China not only meat and grain, but also a variety of products, services and technology needed in the world's fastest growing economy.
Daugaard also said advances in technology have increased grain and livestock production, which will allow additional businesses in the state to process those commodities into more valuable products. He noted South Dakota recently has gained dairy operations and a cheese plant. Facilities also are being built to process flax and pulse crops, which include lentils, field peas and chickpeas.
"We can raise more pigs, feed more cattle and lambs, milk more cows and process more crops. The economic benefits will reverberate throughout South Dakota," Daugaard said.
The governor noted that agriculture is South Dakota's largest industry, with a $21 billion annual economic impact that makes up 20 percent of the state's economy.
"Agriculture does define us," Daugaard said.
Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Texas also spoke to the summit, saying that farmers, ranchers and agricultural business owners need to play a bigger role in setting economic and environmental policies. Those in agriculture must explain their needs and views to the 94 percent of Americans not involved in farming or ranching, he said.
"We in agriculture have tended to play defense for way longer than we should have," Stenholm said.
Stenholm, who was on the Agriculture Committee throughout his 26 years in the House, said the House's failure to pass a Farm Bill last week is an example of how Congress has lost the ability to compromise. He said the bill failed because of a disagreement on spending for food stamps, but House committees have not held detailed hearings to examine that program.
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