South Dakota Department of Agriculture / Department of Environment and Natural Resources Merger

Frequently Asked Questions
September 2020

  1. Who decided to merge the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)?
    Governor Noem and her team made the decision to merge SDDA and DENR. Both departments fully support the merger and are ready to get to work streamlining the agencies to promote and protect agriculture and our environment and natural resources for today and tomorrow.
  2. Does the Governor have the authority to merge the two departments?
    Yes, under Article IV of the South Dakota Constitution, the Governor has the authority to reorganize her cabinet by executive order.
  3. What is the new department’s name?
    The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR).
  4. Why merge SDDA and DENR?
    Given that both agencies are regulatory in nature, and the fact that agriculture, conservation, and natural resource protection go hand-in-hand, it makes sense for South Dakota to regulate, and protect these industries under one department. The merger also puts the state’s agriculture and environmental experts in one department allowing for less bureaucracy, more collaboration, and better outcomes for the environment, agriculture, and South Dakota’s citizens.
  5. What is the merger schedule?
    • August 27, 2020 – Governor Noem announced her plan to merge SDDA and DENR
    • September 8, 2020 – Secretary Hunter Roberts became the SDDA interim-Secretary
    • January 2021 – Governor Noem will issue an executive order merging the two agencies
    • April 2021 – Ninety days after Governor Noem issues the executive order the merger will take effect
  6. Who will run the new department?
    Secretary Hunter Roberts will be the new DANR cabinet secretary.
  7. Will the new department continue to be an advocate for agriculture?
    Yes, the Lt. Governor, working closely with Secretary Roberts, will serve as an ambassador for agriculture and a liaison between commodity groups and the Governor’s executive team. In addition, the new agency will work to review and develop agriculture and environmental regulations that make sense for South Dakota.
  8. How will the merger affect the employees at SDDA and DENR?
    During the transition and once the merger is complete, SDDA and DENR staff will continue to perform their duties as they have in the past. There are no large layoffs planned, but there may be some reorganization and vacant positions lost due to attrition.
  9. Why isn’t “Environment” included in the new department’s title?
    Several names were considered for the new department. South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources was the best fit. Not including “Environment” in no way reflects the Governor’s strong commitment to protect South Dakota’s environment and natural resources. In fact, DENR was previously called the Department of Water and Natural Resources.
  10. Will the new department take environmental protection seriously?
    Absolutely. A healthy environment is crucial to the health and well-being of our state and our citizens. This merger will not reduce or limit the environmental protections South Dakota has in place today. The new DANR will continue to implement and enforce South Dakota’s long-standing regulatory programs.
  11. How will the merger affect producers during the transition?
    We do not want the merger to cause any delays for producers. Please continue to work with your normal contacts at DENR and SDDA during the transition process.
  12. Can the new department support agriculture and protect the environment at the same time?
    Absolutely. Conservation and proper land management are key components to sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. In South Dakota we have family farms – many have been here for generations. This longevity is not the result of abuse or disregard for the land. Rather, it is the result of responsible farming and ranching and a desire to care and preserve our natural resources. By combining SDDA and DENR, we can streamline agriculture and environmental services to protect our natural resources for today and tomorrow.
  13. How will the new department affect producers long-term?
    By merging SDDA and DENR into a single department, our producers will have a one-stop shop for all their regulatory needs. Our intent is to improve customer service, create efficiencies, and allow producers to do what they do best, while still adhering to the law.
    Producers are the best conservationists and are essential to protecting our environment. By working together, we will achieve the best outcome for the agriculture industry and the environment.