South Dakota state government to merge agriculture, DENR departments

Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 3:24 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Two major departments within the South Dakota state government will soon be merged.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced Thursday that the South Dakota Departments of Agriculture and Environment & Natural Resources will merge to form the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The Department of Agriculture traditionally aims promote the state’s largest industries - farming and ranching. The Department of Environment & Natural Resources’ stated mission is to protect public health, provide environmental monitoring, and assess natural resources in the state.

A timeline for when the merger will be completed has not been set, according to Ian Fury, a spokesperson for Noem. A press release from Noem’s office said the new department will be “streamlined.” Fury declined to give any further details about why the departments are being merged.

Noem said Hunter Roberts, the current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, will oversee the new department. Beginning September 8, and until the merger is complete, Roberts will serve as interim Secretary of Agriculture while continuing to also lead the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden has been serving as interim director of the ag department since the previous director retired in May.

Roberts is an owner and operator of the Roberts Ranch in Stanley and Lyman counties. He has worked in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development as state energy director and as a policy advisor for Governor Daugaard working on agricultural policy and overseeing the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

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