When the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association convenes its 121st annual convention and trade show this weekend, at least one invited guest will not make an appearance.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., declined an invitation to speak along with her Democratic opponent, Matt Varilek, at a candidates forum scheduled for noon Saturday in Rapid City, Stockgrowers executive director Silvia Christen said Wednesday.
“It’s very disappointing that in a Farm Bill year, especially with the drought conditions that we’re having, that our sitting congresswoman isn’t able to come to answer questions directly from producers,” Christen said.
Noem is being challenged by Varilek for South Dakota's lone Congressional seat in the Nov. 6 election. Christen said Saturday's event is not intended to be a debate.
“The intention was to have both candidates there to talk about what their plans are and what their work is and then to answer questions from our members. It wasn’t a debate,” she said. “We were really hoping to have a discussion and some dialog about what’s going on in Washington, D.C., and what our producers need from their representative.
Noem attended the convention two years ago, when she was seeking her first term in Congress. Her opponent and the incumbent at the time, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, did not attend the convention.
Varilek has accepted the invitation to speak to the Stockgrowers at the Rural Heritage luncheon at noon Saturday. The invitation is still open to Noem if she wants to come, Christen said.
The public is welcome to attend any of the convention’s sessions, Christen said.
Noem and Varilek have agreed to meet in an Oct. 12 debate at the University Center in Rapid City. The debate, which is the only one scheduled for western South Dakota, is sponsored by the Rapid City Journal.