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Minnesota loses a rural champion

State Senate Dallas Sams, former AURI board member, died on March 5 at age 54 from brain cancer. He served on AURI’s board for almost 13 years, through 2006.

“We are deeply saddened. He was a great friend and supporter of AURI,” says Teresa Spaeth, AURI executive director. “Many people will miss Dallas — a champion of agriculture, rural economic development and the environment.”

A DFLer from Staples, Minn., Sams served the Minnesota Senate for 16 years and chaired the agriculture and environment committee. After losing his reelection bid last fall, he was appointed to a position with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Sams was known for his leadership on rural and environmental issues, including increasing ethanol consumption, making farming more attractive to young people, gaining better mental health coverage for farmers, and he proposed a constitutional amendment that would dedicate a portion of a sales-tax increase for conservation and the outdoors. He was also a dairy farmer, agriculture management teacher, pilot and pianist.

Sams was treated for a brain tumor in 2005 and doctors found another malignant tumor last summer. He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul. Sams is survived by his wife, Mary Beth, and five children.