USDA Announces Pilot Program to Increase Homeownership Opportunities on Native Lands Department is Partnering with Native Community Development Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a pilot program to increase homeownership opportunities on Tribal lands.

“To thrive, rural America needs a creative and forward-thinking partner in USDA,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is harnessing innovation so we can be a better, more effective partner to Tribal communities in building their futures.”

USDA is partnering with two Native Community Development Financial Institutions (NCDFIs) that have extensive experience working in Native American communities. The Department will loan $800,000 each to Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and to Four Bands Community Fund. The organizations will relend the money to eligible homebuyers for mortgages on South Dakota and some North Dakota Tribal trust lands. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and Four Bands Community Fund also will service the mortgage loans after they are made. USDA is providing the funding through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program.

Each NCDFI will contribute $200,000 for mortgages in the pilot program.

USDA has helped nearly 4 million rural residents purchase homes since passage of the Housing Act of 1949. However, homeownership rates on Tribal lands historically have been significantly lower than those for other communities.

Both NCDFIs have deep ties to the local communities and will be able to reach potential homebuyers more effectively than USDA and other lenders. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and creates homeownership opportunities for the members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Four Bands Community Fund, headquartered in Eagle Butte, S.D., provides financial products to businesses as well as home mortgages in South Dakota and North Dakota. Part of its service area includes the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

The pilot program will begin this summer. USDA Rural Development’s state office in Huron, S.D., will oversee the initiative.

In April 2017, The President established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

Rounds, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Rural Health Care Delivery


Washington,DC— U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today joined Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) to introduce the bipartisan Rural Health Liaison Act. This legislation would improve coordination among the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other health care stakeholders through the creation of a rural health liaison. This legislation is supported by the National Rural Health Association.

“Making sure all South Dakotans, including those in rural areas who live far away from a major hospital or clinic, have access to the same quality of care as those living in big cities is a priority of mine,” said Rounds. “Creating a position within USDA that is solely focused on improving health care in rural areas will help us address the unique health challenges facing our small, sparsely-populated communities. It will also help bridge gaps between USDA and other federal agencies like HHS.”

“As the rural hospital closure crisis and the opioid epidemic escalate in rural America, we need to seek new ways to help struggling rural economies and increase opportunities for rural patients and providers,” said Alan Morgan, CEO, National Rural Health Association. “USDA has experience with working to keep struggling hospitals from closing and is the home to a number of programs critical in providing telehealth services and other rural health resources. Now more than ever, we need a Rural Health Liaison at the USDA to ensure better coordination and streamlining of rural health programs.”

USDA plays a significant role in federal rural development efforts. The agency has the capability to finance the construction of hospitals, to implement telehealth programs, and carry out health education initiatives. The Rural Health Liaison Act would establish a rural health liaison to make sure USDA is fully coordinated and leveraged with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as other important stakeholders.

Under the Rural Health Liaison Act, the newly established Rural Health Liaison would:

  • Consult with HHS on rural health issues and improve communication with all federal agencies;
  • Provide expertise on rural health care issues;
  • Lead and coordinate strategic planning on rural health activities within the USDA; and,
  • Advocate on behalf of the health care and relevant infrastructure needs in rural areas.


WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation today announced the 2018 marketing assistance loan rates by:

  • County for wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, soybeans and each “other oilseed” (canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sesame seed and sunflower seed);
  • Region for pulses (dry peas, lentils, small chickpeas and large chickpeas); and
  • State for rough rice.

The rates are posted on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website at

Marketing assistance loans provide interim financing to producers so that commodities can be stored after harvest when market prices are typically low, to be sold later when price conditions are more favorable.

2018 Wheat, Feed Grains and Oilseeds National Loan Rates
Wheat $2.94 per bushel
Corn $1.95 per bushel
Grain Sorghum $1.95 per bushel
Barley $1.95 per bushel
Oats $1.39 per bushel
Soybeans $5.00 per bushel
Other Oilseeds $10.09 per hundredweight (cwt.) for each “other oilseed”

Marketing assistance loans for the 2018 barley, canola, crambe, flaxseed, oats, rapeseed, sesame seed, and wheat crops are available through March 31, 2019, and for the 2018 corn, grain sorghum, mustard seed, safflower, soybean and sunflower seed crops through May 31, 2019.

2018 Rough Rice Loan Rates by State and Class
State Long Grain Rice Medium Grain Rice
$ per cwt.
Arkansas 6.48 6.31
California 6.34 6.56
Louisiana 6.47 6.52
Mississippi 6.53 6.50
Missouri 6.48 6.50
Texas 6.70 6.50
U.S. Average 6.50 6.50
U.S. loan rate applies to all other states.

Medium grain includes short grain.

For warehouse-stored loans, national loan rates for whole and broken kernels are used to establish loan proceeds based on the milling out-turns reported on the warehouse receipt. Marketing assistance loans for the 2018 rice crop are available through May 31, 2019. The loan rate for long grain whole kernels is $10.08 per cwt.; for medium grain (including short grain), $9.67 per cwt.; and for broken kernels (all classes), $6.14 per cwt.

2018 Regional Pulse Crop Loan Rates
Crop East Region

Loan Rate

West Region

Loan Rate


Loan Rate

Dry Peas 5.35 5.74 5.40
Lentils 11.19 11.96 11.28
Large Chickpeas 11.28 11.28 11.28
Small Chickpeas 7.43 7.43 7.43

The West region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The East region includes Montana, North Dakota and other states not included in the West region. The rate for small and large chickpeas applies to all states and counties. Marketing assistance loans for the 2018 pulse crops are available through May 31, 2019.

For more information, visit To learn more about FSA, visit

Fire Crews Burn Slash Piles across the Black Hills National Forest

Spearfish, SD; November 29, 2016 – Forest Managers are working to reduce hazardous fuels across the Black Hills National Forest.

Starting today & continuing through the week into next week, Northern Hills fire will be burning piles located South of Aspen Hills Rd, East of Forest Service Road (FSR) 134.1, North of 222.2 and off of FSR 207, west of Rochford Rd.

Throughout the winter, Districts across the Black Hills National Forest are focusing efforts on burning hand and machine slash piles. Piles are created from timber sale slash and tree thinning operations.

“It is very important to reduce fire and insect hazards by reducing fuel buildup,” said Todd Pechota, Black Hills National Forest Fire Management Officer. “With today’s snowfall in the northern hills and extended forecast, conditions are good for reducing these forest fuels through pile burning.”

Smoke will be visible and may impact local communities across the Black Hills for the next several months. Smoldering material may continue to burn days after burning operations are completed. Crews will continue to burn as conditions permit. Firefighters continually monitor and check the piles for several days after they have been lit.

“We appreciate the support from the communities,” said Pechota. “Being able to reduce these fuels this time of year makes fire suppression operations safer during the summer months.” 

Burning operations will continue throughout the winter as conditions permit.

For more pile burning information and notifications, follow the Black Hills National Forest on Facebook: or Twitter:

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit

Burning Permits in the Black Hills May Open Later This Month

Rapid City, S.D.- Forecasted winter conditions with snow may allow the South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division to open up the burn permit season for the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District starting the weekend of Nov. 19.

Wildland Fire deputy director Jim Strain says, “Depending on snow cover conditions, we may just open up the Northern Black Hills for the season, and wait for more favorable conditions before opening up the rest of the rest of the Black Hills for burn permits.”

Normally, the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District is opened for permitted burns starting Nov. 1, however abnormally warm and dry conditions pushed that date back this year. Temporary burn permits for either slash pile or debris burning may be obtained at  Burn permits obtained on-line are good through the March 31 expiration date.

Burning without a permit in the Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District is class II misdemeanor and could result in $125 fine.

Agriculture is a major contributor to South Dakota’s economy, generating $25.6 billion in annual economic activity and employing over 115,000 South Dakotans. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s mission is to promote, protect and preserve this industry for today and tomorrow. Visit us online at or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Rancher Moves Cattle Out of Anti-Horse Prescribed Fire Burn Area Monday October 24, 2015


By Herb Ryan
October 24, 2016

Custer, SD – Butch Reder, from Dyesville Angus in Hermosa was busy today rounding up cattle from a north pasture he leases from the U.S. Forest Service about 18 miles west of Custer. Reder, along with 9 other riders were having a tough time of it because of the 10.000 acres he runs his cattle on. The crew had rounded up the cattle prior to the burn but Butch thinks a hunter may have left the north pasture gate open. The riders were concentrating on a select area and had rounded up 45 head by 2:30  Monday afternoon.

The Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest is planning to ignite 1,500 acres on the Anti-Horse prescribed fire project Tuesday, October 25 – Wednesday, October 26, depending on weather. Smoke will be visible for several miles and could impact Highway 16 west of Custer, SD. Crews have been preparing to implement the project to meet management objectives for several years.

Casey Seidler and Butch Reder decide which way to continue the search for lost cattle on Forest Service Rd 668 in the 1,500 acre Anti-Horse prescribed fire area Monday afternoon, November 24, 2016. The burn is scheduled for 9:00 am Tuesday October 25 and Wednesday October 26, 2016, weather permitting. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press


Casey Seidler drives a group of Angus up a forest service road towards the north pasture are on Forest Service Rd 668 in the 1,500 acre Anti-Horse prescribed fire area Monday afternoon, November 24, 2016. The burn is scheduled for 9:00 am Tuesday October 25 and Wednesday October 26, 2016, weather permitting. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press


Portable water tanks are preset and waiting to be filled with water in several areas in the Anti-Horse prescribed burn area in the 1,500 acre  prescribed fire burn area Monday afternoon, November 24, 2016.  The burn is scheduled for 9:00 am Tuesday October 25 and Wednesday October 26, 2016, weather permitting. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

A South Dakotan’s Field of Dreams – By Sen. John Thune

 By Sen. John Thune
October 13, 2016

When South Dakotans picture opening day of pheasant season, they see unharvested corn and milo fields, sloughs, shelterbelts, and food plots lined with hunters – often friends and family, conspicuous in their bright orange clothing. Although shooting a limit of pheasants isn’t the mark of a successful hunt, the allure of the “Pheasant Capital of the World” is why hunters from across the United States gather in South Dakota every third Saturday in October to participate in this world-class event and renew or create family memories and traditions.

As you walk through the amply covered fields during your fall hunt, it’s important to think about what the surrounding landscape looks like in winter after the crops are harvested, snow covers the ground, and temperatures dive below zero. It’s also important to think about the spring nesting season when quality habitat is crucial for pheasants to hide their nests and offer protection to their young chicks. Most people probably assume that’s what the widely known and well-respected Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is for, and they would be right.

Since its authorization in the 1985 farm bill, CRP has evolved into the cornerstone of federal conservation programs and has helped create a field of dreams for South Dakota pheasant hunters. CRP acreage in South Dakota peaked in 2007 at more than 1.5 million acres, and as a result of the nesting habitat and winter cover most CRP acres provide, pheasant numbers increased dramatically. Since then, CRP acreage has dropped, and unfortunately it’s only going to get worse. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports show that over the next six years, nearly 580,000 additional acres will expire from CRP in South Dakota – that’s a 60 percent loss of our current CRP-enrolled acres.

The opportunity for South Dakota landowners to enroll more land in the most recent general CRP sign-up was significantly hamstrung when the USDA announced it had accepted just 107 of the more than 40,000 acres that South Dakota landowners had offered. In response, I wrote to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and later had an opportunity to question him during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing about the department’s disappointing decision and inappropriate CRP management practices.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will continue to work with USDA officials and focus my efforts on making changes to CRP policy next year when we begin debate on the next farm bill to ensure adequate and equitable CRP enrollment and common-sense management of CRP in the future.

Keeping adequate acres enrolled in South Dakota will benefit everyone because it will help maintain our state’s nearly quarter-million-dollar pheasant hunting industry, which directly benefits our small towns and rural areas. Farmers will continue to protect and preserve soil health, and our state’s pheasant hunting legacy will continue for generations to come.