U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Democrat state legislators who have abandoned their jobs in Texas and the irony of Washington Democrats applauding their effort as they openly discuss trampling on minority rights in the U.S. Senate. Thune also discussed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) announcement that it will lift the prohibition on haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented plant acres in South Dakota and other parts of the country. In April, Thune reintroduced his bill to lift the prohibition on haying and grazing of cover crops prior to the November 1 deadline to provide relief to farmers in northern states like South Dakota who were left at a significant disadvantage.
Excerpts of Thune’s speech below:
On Texas Democrats abandoning their jobs and the irony of their effort in Washington, D.C.:
“Mr. President, the Republican Leader was here a few moments ago discussing an issue that has gotten a lot of play here lately and that is the attempt by Democrat members of the Texas legislature to come to Washington, D.C., to protest legislation that is being moved through the legislature in the state of Texas.
“In fact, this is the cover of one of … today’s newspapers.
“It has a photo of Democrat legislators from Texas meeting with Democrat leadership here in the United States Senate.
“Allegedly they are here, playing hooky from their jobs in Texas, having flown in, I’m told, on private jets – so much for doing something about the climate – to protest the fact that in Texas, their voice is not being heard and they’re not being given input into the legislative process there.
“I point that out simply because it is really incredibly ironic – I mean, it is rich with irony.
“Sometimes around here you just say, ‘You can’t make this stuff up.’
“They’re here in Washington, D.C., away from Texas – this is where their jobs are – to protest the fact that their views and voice is not being heard in Texas and that the majority in Texas is running roughshod over the minority and their rights.
“The same Democrats, I would add, who here in Washington, D.C., are trying to get rid of the legislative filibuster in the United States Senate.
“The very mechanism that historically has protected the rights of the minority and given them a voice in the legislative process.
“The very thing that has been used historically in a way that ensures the Senate has to come together behind big solutions, collaborate, find that common ground, find that compromise.
“The Democrats here in Washington – and these Democrats from Texas – all in favor of getting rid of the legislative filibuster.
“I mean, think about that.
“It’s really pretty remarkable that they would come up here to protest what’s happening in Texas at a time when they support getting rid of the very protections that give the minority here in the United States Senate a voice in that legislative process.
“The other really remarkable irony about this is the issue they are here to speak in support of is S. 1.
“The bill that would federalize, that would nationalize elections in this country and take power away from states when it comes to regulating and administering elections – a power that has been held by states going back to the Founders.”
On the USDA’s haying and grazing announcement and its importance to South Dakota:
“Mr. President, last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that going forward, agriculture producers will be able to hay or graze cover crops on prevented plant acres at any time, without a reduction in their prevented planting payments.
“This is good news for farmers around the country, but particularly for farmers in more northern states like South Dakota, who were left at a significant disadvantage by the previous haying and grazing date.
“I’ve been working on this issue since 2019, when the effects of a tough winter, rainfall, and flooding kept many South Dakota farmers from their usual planting.
“As a result, many farmers were looking to sow quick-growing cover crops on the acres they were unable to plant with their usual crops.
“But they faced a problem.
“At the time, the Department of Agriculture would not allow farmers to harvest or graze these cover crops until November 1 each year.
“Farmers who hayed or grazed before this date faced a reduction in their prevent plant payments – crop insurance to help them cover their income loss when fields can’t be planted due to flooding or other issues.
“Now, November 1 was generally a pretty reasonable date for farmers in southern states.
“But in northern states like South Dakota, November 1 was often too late for harvesting thanks to the risk of snow and other late fall or early winter storms.
“It was also too late to maximize the use of cover crops for pasture, since the ground could freeze before cover crops were fully grazed.
“So I and other members of Congress successfully lobbied the Department of Agriculture to move up the haying and grazing date for 2019.
“But that was a short-term fix for a frequent problem.
“And so in March of 2020, I introduced legislation, along with Senator Stabenow, to permanently remove the November 1 haying and grazing date.
“And I continued to lobby USDA on this issue.
“And I am very pleased that the Department of Agriculture has listened to farmers and the members who represent them and permanently eliminated the November 1 date.
“Cover crops are a win-win situation for farmers and for the environment.
“They prevent soil erosion, which can pollute streams and rivers and worsen flooding.
“They improve soil health, which improves future crop yields and benefits the environment.
“And they reduce feed shortages for ag producers by providing another source of feed for their livestock.
“Last week’s decision by the Department of Agriculture will reduce a barrier to cover crop adaptation and ensure that farmers throughout the United States are able to reap the benefits of sowing these crops.
“Mr. President, USDA’s decision is a big victory for South Dakota farmers and farmers in other northern states.
“But unfortunately it doesn’t solve the challenges agriculture producers in my state are facing this summer.
“Right now, almost every acre of land in South Dakota is experiencing drought conditions.
“A huge portion of the state is facing a severe drought.
“And some areas of the state have been classified as being in extreme drought.
“And ag producers in other states are facing similar conditions.
“Hay is in short supply.
“And without adequate forage, some cattle producers are being forced to cut down their herds, which is devastating for producers who’ve spent years building their herds.
“Emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres can help alleviate forage shortages for livestock producers during drought years.
“South Dakota has nearly 1.4 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
“I am a longtime champion of this program, which supports both the production agriculture and hunting industries in South Dakota.
“The Conservation Reserve Program provides critical habitat for pheasants and other wildlife, which contribute significantly to our state’s economy.
“Haying and grazing CRP acres can also provide a lifeline for South Dakota ag producers during droughts like the one our state is currently facing.
“Last month, I sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to release additional Conservation Reserve Program acres to help South Dakota producers, many of whom are in desperate need.
“While I am pleased USDA is currently allowing emergency grazing in many counties, emergency CRP haying is not allowed until after the primary nesting season ends on August 1, which is too late in a drought year.
“Agriculture is a tough business, and our producers have had to endure a tremendous amount over the past few years, from tough weather conditions to the COVID pandemic.
“Cattle producers are also dealing with market volatility that has recently provided record-high profit margins for meatpackers while producers struggle to stay in business.
“I will continue pressing the administration and working with my colleagues to hold the big four meatpackers accountable to the producers and consumers who depend on them.
“The Department of Agriculture should do everything it can to help farmers and ranchers weather this drought.
“And I will keep doing everything I can to get relief to producers in my state and around the country.
“I’m grateful for the Department of Agriculture’s decision on haying and grazing on prevented planting acres.
“And I will keep working to ensure CRP and all USDA programs have the flexibility necessary to meet the needs of producers while also making sure we balance the wildlife and conservation needs of our state.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”