The Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 18

To the farmers, thank you

The roads are dusty, cattle are overheating and the corn stalks are starving for a drink.

Welcome to South Dakota summer 2017.

Breaking news: It's hot and dry, folks. And it's really a drag.

While it's not considered to be the worst drought South Dakota has seen on record thus far, this summer is really taking a toll on our most important industry: Agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers wake up each morning and check the forecast to the same song.

Monday, hot and dry. Tuesday, hot and dry. Wednesday, you guessed it.

Most people realize the importance the agriculture industry is to the economic well-being of South Dakota, but this year's drought is magnifying exactly how critical that engine really is.

But more importantly, this dry period is weighing hard on the spirits of farmers and ranchers.

No rain means little to no hay crop.

No rain means extra work to keep cows and calfs cool and healthy.

And no rain means no grain produced from the ground.

The harvest season is an immense amount of work, but it's the season that farmers work for. It's their paycheck. It's collecting the grain that feeds the world. This year, sadly, farmers are not looking forward to harvest compared to recent years when yields have been rather bountiful.

As we continue to pray for rain each Sunday in church, we continue thinking about the farmers who are battling through this drought each day.

It's difficult years like now that we appreciate South Dakota's agriculture industry more than ever. It's a full-time, all-the-time job. And even if this year finishes tough, farmers will drive back into the fields next year, plant their seeds and start over.

To the farmers and ranchers working through this heat with little signs of hope, thank you.

Thank you for everything.

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Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, July 18

Township task force needs your input

Once again, Yankton County officials are asking for public input on the roads. Perhaps this time, they'll get some.

"This time" refers to a task force that's been established to look at the pros, cons and possibilities of townships within the county as a means of addressing at least a portion of the overall road/bridge issue. Studying this concept is a good idea, and it could provide a little help for Yankton County as it struggles just to keep up on its road work.

Organizing a township can be a practical and/or contentious move, which is why the task force is seeking the public's thoughts on the matter.

The County Commission sought public feedback last year when it made a second try at imposing a levy to help pay for road and bridge maintenance. The item was placed on the agenda of most every commission meeting held last summer. But overall, there was little in the way of feedback from the public — at least until the public voted to reject the levy, sending the process back to square one again.

The time to step up and get involved is now, not later. And, while getting involved just enough to say "no" on the ballot is your right, it isn't particularly practical or constructive in regards to finding a long-term solution.

After last year's levy defeat, this task force was formed to examine townships within the county. Very broadly speaking, a township is a local governing apparatus in which, in this case, residents pay for the maintenance of their own roads; thus, their money goes directly to the roads they use, and those roads also come off the county's to-do list. While there are already some townships in Yankton County, others remain unorganized and, therefore, are under the county's care, which stretches a slim road budget even further.

Residents in an area have every right to remain unorganized and stay on the county's road budget. However, when they do this, their roads are classified as "county secondary," meaning they are not the top priority for the county when it comes to road maintenance. That's a big drawback of staying unorganized.

Meanwhile, organizing a township comes with its own burdens and responsibilities, although it does offer local control.

Doing one or the other is not a simple decision, which is why the task force wants the public to weigh in on the subject.

Time to do this is running out, but it hasn't vanished. The task force has two more meetings scheduled — on July 31 and Aug. 14 — at the County Government Center before it organizes its information and formulates recommendations for the County Commission. County residents are stakeholders in this, and they need to be involved. This is the next chapter in Yankton County's roadway saga, and it is important to weigh in. It's all about your money and your roads, not to mention your future.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 18

Sanford Lab gets the right type of attention

GOOD: It was quite a week for the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead. On Wednesday, the lab that is working to unravel some of the mysteries of the universe received a social media boost when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to visit western South Dakota. After getting a tour of the former Homestake Gold Mine, Zuckerberg — who has 93 million Facebook followers — did a 13-minute video post from a mile below the ground that attracted 2.5 million views within 24 hours. The Journal then reported on Sunday that a multimillion-dollar conveyor belt will be built at the lab to remove 875,000 tons of rock in three years as part of the lab's Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which has garnered the attention of scientists from around the world. Last week's news and the visit from Zuckerberg demonstrate the underground lab clearly has a rock-solid future as a research institution.

BAD: The actions of our public servants are confounding at times. One of those times is now if you live in southwestern Fall River County, where some residents are understandably concerned about seismic testing for oil and natural gas deposits scheduled to be conducted in an area where explosive consequences are not all that far-fetched. The 46,000 acres — which includes 23,000 acres of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland — that will be subjected to the testing includes the former Black Hills Army Depot, a storage site for weapons during World War II. Local residents have expressed concerns that the testing might cause problems in an area where ammunition, bombs, rockets and even chemical weapons are stored. Those worries have largely gone unheeded by U.S. Forest Service officials, who did, however, decide to prohibit testing until Aug. 1 to protect raptors and sharp-tailed grouse now nesting there. I guess one can say the local residents there are third in the pecking order in their home county.

UGLY: The Federal Aviation Administration is concerned that Deadwood's proposed "drone no-fly zone" ordinance will chip away at its sweeping authority to regulate all air space. The Deadwood City Commission recently approved the first reading of the ordinance that prohibits drones from flying over the downtown, schools, churches, and the water treatment and storage facilities with some exceptions. The penalties include fines and as long as 30 days in the county jail. The idea is to protect the privacy of residents and deter those operators whose reckless acts can endanger public safety. Even as the FAA seeks to discourage or stop Deadwood from the prying eyes of drone operators, the agency itself reports a surge in drone sightings, including cases this summer when they interrupted the efforts of firefighters battling wildfires. Drones are becoming a problem and the FAA is not keeping up, which is why towns are forced to consider taking matters into their own hands.