Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Today the Senate Agriculture Committee begins consideration of the 2007 Farm Bill. Senator Thune, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been successful in getting several of his provisions included in the base bill, and will offer several amendments to improve the bill for South Dakota's agriculture producers as the debate unfolds.

"There is a good opportunity to build on the successes of the 2002 Farm Bill and propel South Dakota into a more profitable era of food, fiber, energy production, and outdoor recreation," said Thune.

Following is a list of Senator Thune's provisions that have been included in the base bill:

Biofuels Innovation Program
Last May, Senator Thune introduced a bipartisan first-of-its-kind program to provide producer incentives for growing energy dedicated crops like switchgrass and fast growing trees, in conjunction with the construction of nearby biorefineries. This program would provide a cost-share payment and per-acre rental payment to producers who have committed to growing energy-dedicated crops for a local biorefinery. This program would also provide a per-ton payment to farmers for collecting, storing, and transporting biomass (such as corn cobs) to cellulosic ethanol plants. In total, this program will provide almost $160 million to producers to jumpstart the cellulosic ethanol industry. The per-ton payment alone would incentivize almost 60 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production.

Stronger Mandatory COOL Language
On October 3, 2007, Senator Thune requested that the House-passed COOL language be strengthened to clarify that all categories of red meat are required to be labeled. At Senator Thune's request, the Agriculture Committee's bill includes minor changes to the House-passed COOL provisions that will make implementing mandatory COOL clear, concise, and beyond legal challenge.

Sun Grant Initiative
The Agriculture Committee's bill includes $25 million in mandatory funding for the Sun Grant Initiative, which is coordinated by South Dakota State University. For months, Senator Thune has been working with members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to underscore the important renewable fuels research taking place at South Dakota State University through the Sun Grant Initiative. This provision would provide much needed mandatory funding for the Sun Grant Initiative, while reauthorizing this program through the life of the farm bill. Under the Senate 2007 Farm Bill, the Sun Grant Initiative would also be authorized for annual appropriations up to $70 million per year through 2012.

Stronger Sodsaver Provision
After months of working with the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Thune was successful in including a common-sense sodsaver provision. This provision would not allow crop insurance and NAP coverage for crops planted on native sod. Between 2002 and 2005, almost 300,000 acres of native sod in South Dakota was converted from native grassland to cropland. The House-passed farm bill only applies to crop insurance eligibility for four years after native sod is converted to cropland.

Expanded Tribal Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program
At Senator Thune's request, the Agriculture Committee's bill expands the successful Fresh Fruits and Vegetables program to a minimum of 100 Indian Tribal Organizations across the country. Although the House-passed bill expanded the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program nationwide, it did not expand access to Indian Reservations. The Fresh Fruits and Vegetables program was started in the 2002 Farm Bill as a pilot program. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was chosen as one of three reservations to participate in the pilot program. Thanks to Senator Thune's efforts this program will be expanded to over 100 Indian Reservations nationwide.

Open Fields Legislation
In May, Senator Thune joined a bipartisan group of Senators in cosponsoring in the Open Fields Act. For the first time ever, federal funding ($20 million per year) will be available to expand the already successful walk-in program in South Dakota and in other states. South Dakota landowners have voluntarily enrolled more than 1 million acres of privately owned land in South Dakota's program.

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