My Commitment to Agriculture

South Dakota’s number one industry is agriculture, which is why I have chosen to serve our farmers and ranchers as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and have helped write the last three Farm Bills. 
I fight hard to promote South Dakota’s agriculture economy and to protect the way of life for South Dakota’s farming families by actively engaging in creating sound agriculture and land stewardship policies. 
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I helped draft the 2002 Farm Bill and as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I helped write the 2008 Farm Bill. In 2012 and 2013, I worked across party lines with my colleagues on the Committee to draft the current 2014 Farm Bill, which was signed into law by the president on February 7, 2014. 

2014 Farm Bill Commodity Title Programs

The 2014 Farm Bill Commodity Title replaced an outdated counter-cyclical program, which most farmers told Congress they do not want.  In fact, fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s farmers enrolled in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program which is very similar to the previous Farm Bill’s Direct Payments Programs.

The 2014 Farm Bill completely eliminates the Direct Payments Program and replaced it with the PLC and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programs. ARC is fashioned after the Aggregate Revenue and Risk Management (ARRM) Program I introduced in late 2011. The ARC program is designed to provide assistance only when it is needed because it uses rolling averages of prices and yields to calculate payments.  More than 90 percent of South Dakota’s farms are enrolled in ARC.

Participating producers have made a one-time selection between ARC and PLC at their Farm Service Agency offices for each farm.  This selection will remain with the farm through the 2018 crop year. 

2014 Farm Bill Conservation Programs

I am pleased that key conservation and crop insurance provisions, which I supported in previous Farm Bills, remained strong in the 2014 Farm Bill. Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program is capped at 24 million acres by 2018. The 2014 Farm Bill also includes a limited sodsaver provision which I authored. Sodsaver limits crop insurance subsidies and indemnities on crops grown on newly converted sod throughout the Prairie Pothole Region. This provision does not prohibit producers from converting native sod to cropland, but simply scales back premium support on the newly converted acres of native sod for the first four years of production.

Additionally, the 2014 Farm Bill links eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies to conservation compliance, a common-sense policy I worked hard to include. During the Farm Bill debate, an agreement on conservation compliance linkage to crop insurance was reached among several major national commodity and farm organizations, the crop insurance industry, and conservation and wildlife interests. Under this agreement if they are currently not meeting conservation compliance standards on a farm, farmers have three years to develop an acceptable conservation plan.

2014 Farm Bill Livestock Disaster Programs

Although most commodity crop producers may insure for lost production and low prices with crop insurance, livestock producers do not have the same comprehensive levels of affordable disaster loss coverage available. The 2014 Farm Bill provides permanent funding and authority for the livestock disaster programs that Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and I first authored for the 2008 Farm Bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP).

LIP, LFP, and ELAP provide assistance for eligible losses dating back to 2012, including the widespread drought of 2012 and the winter storm Atlas losses that occurred in October of 2013. LIP  idemnifies eligible producers at a rate of 75 percent of the market value of the applicable livestock on the day before the death of the livestock, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture. Producers are eligible to receive up to $125,000 per person or $250,000 for a husband/wife operation. 

2014 Farm Bill Forestry Title Provisions

As a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources, I have worked hard to enact common-sense forestry policies to ensure the U.S. Forest Service has the tools it needs to be a good steward of our national forests. Across the Western United States and in the Black Hills in South Dakota, the mountain pine beetle has caused great devastation and destruction and poses a particular challenge to maintaining forest health.

The Forestry Title of the 2014 Farm Bill includes several of my proposals that streamline and provide improved management tools for the U.S. Forest Service. In particular, the new Farm Bill increases the use of proven Healthy Forest Restoration Act authorities that will help reduce the threat of wildfire and allow the Forest Service to proactively treat certain forest landscapes before they are decimated by the pine beetle. The Farm Bill also expands “Good Neighbor Authority” to all Forest Service lands, includes a 3,000-acre categorical exclusion that will help address severe forest health problems, and provides the U.S. Forest Service with greater flexibility in dealing with large-scale forest health problems.

Prevention of Reckless Prescribed Burns on Federal Lands

On April 28, 2015, I introduced a bill that would require collaboration between federal and local officials before initiating a prescribed burn on federal lands when fire danger is high. My bill followed two prescribed burns in South Dakota in the past two years that burned out-of-control, one set by the Forest Service in northwestern South Dakota known as the Pautre Fire one set by the National Park Service on April 13, 2015, known as the Cold Brook Fire at Wind Cave National Park.

The Pautre Fire caused extensive property losses and both fires required multiple firefighting units, equipment, and personnel to fight the out-of-control fires. It is reasonable to require federal agencies to collaborate with state governments and local fire officials before setting prescribed burns under these conditions, and that is exactly what my bill would do”

Both prescribed burns in South Dakota were started under extremely dry conditions. My bill looks to address numerous issues that came about as a result of these fires.

My bill, the Prescribed Burn Approval Act of 2015, would require the head of a federal agency to first collaborate and obtain approval from state government and local fire officials if the Grassland Fire Danger Index indicates a high, very high, or extreme fire danger or the Fire Service has declared very high or extreme fire danger. My bill also stipulates that should a federal agency proceed with a prescribed burn that damages private property, it is liable for any damage to private property caused by the burn, with damages to be paid within 120 days of receipt of a substantiated claim.