Recent Op-Eds

Prioritizing South Dakota in the Farm Bill

By Sen. John Thune

July 14, 2023

Farmers and ranchers face a lot of uncertainty in their profession – few jobs are subject to markets and weather like agriculture. That’s why farmers and ranchers depend on the resources available to them through the farm bill. Agriculture is the lifeblood of South Dakota, and as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are always a top priority of mine.

It’s no overstatement that work on the next farm bill begins almost as soon as the last one is signed into law. For each of the four farm bills I’ve helped craft, that process begins and ends with farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. I’ve held roundtables with producers throughout South Dakota, and the input I receive from them is invaluable. As Congress continues to draft the next farm bill, I’m working to ensure that South Dakota’s priorities are reflected in the final bill.

One of the things that farmers and ranchers have made clear is the critical role of the farm safety net. Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net, and I’m working to maintain and strengthen it in the next farm bill. Producers also depend on the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs to help offset losses when the price of agriculture products drop. But payments from these programs are not always sufficient to cover producers’ losses, especially amid high inflation. I’m working to ensure the farm safety net is strong and sufficient to address the needs of farmers and ranchers.

I’m also working to secure improvements to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in this year’s bill. CRP plays an important role in improving soil health and water quality, as well as providing wildlife habitat, but the program’s current structure limits potential forage benefits for producers. Among other improvements, I’m working to make the program a more working lands-oriented option for producers and landowners through greater haying and grazing flexibilities.

Another priority is addressing some of the challenges livestock producers have faced in getting their products to Americans’ tables. Early pandemic closures of some meat processing plants led to bottlenecks in processing livestock and empty cases at the grocery store. It became clear that producers need more processing options, and I’m working to include my Strengthening Local Processing Act in this year’s farm bill to help smaller processors expand.

And I’m also working to advance my bill to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling for beef. Our current labeling system, which allows beef that is only finished in the United States to be labeled “Product of the U.S.A.,” is unfair to livestock producers and misleading to consumers. I’ll continue working to ensure consumers can be confident that any beef labeled “Product of the U.S.A.” really came from American cattle producers.

Producing the food that fills Americans’ dinner tables is no easy task. Farmers and ranchers work hard every day, overcome weather conditions, and face uncertain markets. The farm bill provides certainty that the programs many producers depend on will be there for them. Farmers and ranchers’ priorities are my priorities, and I will keep working hard to advance the next farm bill.