Common Sense Prevails
Nowadays, it doesn't seem that common sense prevails very often. However, in a packed court room in Madison recently that's just what happened! In less time than it takes to do the morning chores, a Lake County jury ruled for common sense. Unfortunately, though, the ruling came only after thousands of dollars and many hours were wasted.
Lake County farmer Jim Hageman had been renting farm and pasture land for a number of years from the Demeray family. As part of the agreement, Hageman also had use of the cattle yards around the farm site where he kept about 200 cows, replacement heifers and bull calves during the winter months to take advantage of the site's shelter.
In 2003, a Sioux Falls doctor who owned some land across the road from the farm site contacted the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources to complain about Hageman's cattle. He said that cattle were causing harm to the stock dams on his property and sued Hageman to remove his cattle from the farm site.
There were no issues with permitting or regulations. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources requires a General Permit if a cattle operation is over 1,000 head in a confined space. Lake County Zoning regulation does not require a permit for a farmer to keep a couple of hundred head of cattle if the farm has had cattle before. The farm in question has had cattle for 70 plus years. So clearly, the Hageman family was not in any violation of any state or county regulations.
The Sioux Falls doctor's claim was that Hageman's cow herd has been ruining the stock dam on his property, nearly a half mile from the winter cattle lots. The area between the farm site and the doctor's stock dam contains tall grass that is not pastured. The stock dam is surrounded by wildlife food plots, and is a popular attraction for area wildlife. The doctor's claim was that recreation for himself and his guests has been affected by Hageman's cow herd.
The legal action was pushed by the doctor even though Hageman's cow herd was moved in March 2008. At that time, a new lease was signed with the property owner stating that the Hageman Family would continue to farm the land, but will not have cattle at the farm site.
Apparently the Sioux Falls doctor has discovered what many South Dakotans have known all along ? rural South Dakota is a special place, experienced firsthand by 30,000 South Dakota farm and ranch families every day.
However, it is important for everyone who wants to enjoy rural South Dakota to remember that they are in an agricultural zoned area. Local citizens and governments have decided that these areas should be zoned for agriculture so families like the Hagemans can continue farm the land and raise livestock. Many rural areas depend heavily on the economic contributions of local farmers and ranchers, and these zones are in place to ensure that farm families don't have to spend thousands of dollars defending their livelihood just because someone is disappointed with their private wildlife refuge.
Common sense says that there is room in rural South Dakota for farmers and ranchers to make a living, and for everyone to enjoy our state's vast natural resources. It is reassuring that twelve Lake County jurors felt the same way.