Through merger, Noem creates South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Capitol News Bureau
KELO South Dakota capitol Pierre legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Hunter Roberts will oversee her proposed new South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Governor Kristi Noem’s office said Thursday.

Roberts currently is Noem’s Cabinet secretary for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She announced DENR would merge with the state Department of Agriculture.

Other states have similar combinations. The change would need approval from the Legislature in the 2021 session. Roberts will serve as interim secretary of agriculture starting September 8, the statement said.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, the governor’s running mate, has been the interim secretary of agriculture since Kim Vanneman retired May 8. Noem had announced the appointment of Vanneman as agriculture secretary in December 2018.

The Legislature budgeted the Department of Agriculture for $47,558,714 of total funds and 224.9 full-time equivalent positions for the fiscal year that started July 1. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is budgeted for $25,977,065 and 180.5 FTEs.

DENR currently regulates some agriculture-related functions, such as concentrated animal feeding operations, and water quality.

Noem appointed Roberts to the DENR post last year. He is the son of Clay and Pam Roberts of Pierre.

Pam Roberts, now a member of the state Board of Regents, was a long-time state government employee and Cabinet official during the first Janklow, Mickelson, Miller, second Janklow, Rounds and Daugaard administrations. She chaired the South Dakota Republican Party for two years after her 2013 retirement from state government.

Her father-in-law, and Hunter’s grandfather, the late Clint Roberts, twice ran for governor, was elected to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives and was state secretary of agriculture in 1979-80 during Bill Janklow’s first term as governor.

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