PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota’s Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been officially combined despite some concerns by farmers, environmentalists and lawmakers.

Gov. Kristi Noem has cited overlap and the need for streamlining the agencies which become one as the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Noem has actually been working on combining the departments over the past nine months. Former Natural Resources Secretary Hunter Roberts leads the combined agencies.

Some state lawmakers expressed concern that combining the two major departments would lead to more big government and put environmental concerns on the back burner, the Argus Leader reported. Some lawmakers also say that agriculture, as the state’s No. 1 industry, deserves its own department.

Five positions were cut as a result of the merger, resulting in state savings of $450,000.

A resolution to stop the merger was brought to the Senate floor by Democratic Sen. Troy Heinert, but it was rejected by one vote in March.

The state’s largest agricultural organization, the South Dakota Farmers Union, opposes the merger. However, South Dakota Farmers Bureau members voted at their November convention in support of it.

A formal budget for the new department will take effect on July 1, according to Roberts. Until then, DANR will operate under the remaining budgets for the two departments.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Argus Leader.