PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- A legislative committee on Wednesday effectively killed a bill that aimed to make South Dakota's secretary of agriculture an elected position rather than one appointed by the governor.
The committee voted eight to four to defer the bill until the next legislative session.
Opponents of the bill said the governor picks someone who's a good fit for agriculture and knows the issues. They voiced concerns that South Dakota's urban residents, with no ties to agriculture, might not be well informed when they vote.
Supporters of the bill said it would have ensured that future secretaries are accountable to the agriculture community and voters at large, not to just to the governor.
Everyone in the state is affected in some way by agriculture, John Kerstiens, representing the South Dakota Farmers Union, said. Making it an elected office would produce a hands-on department, remove politics from the office and allow the governor to focus on other issues, Kerstiens said.
Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton, said the change would have benefited agriculture.
"We're heavily a farm state and yet truthfully I don't think agriculture, farming and ranching really get a lot of attention come election time, even if you argue we are the most rural state in the nation," Hunhoff said.
He said the bill had been an attempt to allow voters "to elect a champion of agriculture who will truly become a visible proponent of the industry."
Lorin Pankratz, lobbyist for the South Dakota Pork Producers, said an umbrella group of some 20 agriculture-related groups called Ag Unity voted to oppose the bill.
There may be conflicts if the governor and agriculture secretary are of different political parties and if the agriculture secretary wants to run for higher office, Pankratz said.
Rep. Bob Faehn, R-Watertown, had urged fellow members of the House State Affairs Committee to kill the bill.
"Any time you put something on the ballot it tends to end up political. It tends to end up whoever has the most money winning the election," Faehn said.
He said the 2010 Census may show that more than half the state's population lives in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
"I think there's probably a lot of people in ag that wouldn't feel comfortable with the people in Sioux Falls or Rapid City choosing their secretary," Faehn said.