South Dakota farm and ranch families and the state's agricultural organizations have started a new holiday tradition. For the second year, individuals and organizations will be donating hundreds of gallons of milk to Feeding South Dakota for distribution to food banks across the state during the holiday season.

In November 2009, representatives of the animal rights extremist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protested South Dakota's dairy industry by dressing in a cow costume and dumping gallons of milk into a trash can. In response, individuals and farm organizations donated 500 gallons of milk to Feeding South Dakota. Ag United for South Dakota matched the donations for the 500 gallons received.

"We were very pleased that the state's farmers and ag organizations were able to turn an irresponsible stunt by an activist group into an opportunity to provide hundreds of South Dakotans in need with nutrient-rich milk during the holiday season," said Steve Dick, executive director of Ag United. "South Dakota dairy families are committed to providing the best possible care for their cows and producing a wholesome and nutritious supply of dairy products for our state and beyond."

The donation program was so well received that Ag United and other donors decided to repeat it again in 2010. Donations will be accepted through Ag United's annual meeting, December 7, 2010. Individuals and organizations that want to donate can contact Ag United at 336-3622 or info@agunited.org. Ag United will match donations up to the first 500 gallons.

"Feeding South Dakota appreciates the generous support of the state's farmers, ranchers and ag industry. In the past year, we've received donations of milk, pork, cheese, and other products that have allowed us to provide food to families in need during difficult economic times," said Matt Gassen, executive director of Feeding South Dakota.

There are approximately 350 dairy farms and 91,000 dairy cows in South Dakota. In 2009, the state's dairy farms produced nearly 1.9 billion pounds of milk. In addition, the dairy industry supports the state's economy and communities. Each South Dakota dairy cow represents about $15,524 in total economic effect of the dairy industry.

Dairy foods are the most abundant source of calcium in the American food supply and have many vitamins to keep your body healthy. To learn more about how dairy products lead to a healthy diet, visit the Midwest Dairy Association web site at: www.midwestdairy.com.

Ag United was developed through a collaboration of farm organizations that support livestock production and development and includes the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Pork Producers Council and the South Dakota Soybean Association. The President of the organization is Volga farmer, Scott VanderWal; the Secretary is Astoria farmer, Dave Iverson.

Feeding South Dakota, formerly known as Community Food Banks of South Dakota, provides hunger relief through its various food banks, food pantries and its largely successful BackPack Program to over 100,000 hungry individuals throughout South Dakota and provides over 10 million pounds of food to people in need each year. The organization serves individuals in need statewide by providing immediate hunger relief, long-term meal planning and personal care items like toiletries. Feeding South Dakota's BackPack Program also provides a weekend food supply for 4,389 children in need across the state who might otherwise go hungry on weekends.

Source: AgUnited.org