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 again this Congress and have helped write the last four farm bills, including the most recent farm bill, which was signed into law in late 2018. 

Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve fought to grow South Dakota’s agriculture economy and protect South Dakota’s farming families by actively pursuing sound agriculture and land stewardship policies, and I’m thankful to have had the advice and support of South Dakota’s agriculture community along the way. 

Drafting the 2018 Farm Bill

Beginning in early 2017, building on ideas and suggestions I received from South Dakota farmers and ranchers, I introduced nearly a dozen bills that included more than 40 farm bill initiatives.

My legislative proposals addressed policy shortfalls that had resulted in inadequate livestock disaster coverage, lack of flexibility in current farm bill programs, and the need for additional conservation program opportunities.

Nearly 20 of my farm bill initiatives were included in the final 2018 farm bill, which was signed into law on December 20, 2018.

2018 Farm Bill: SHIPP -- A New Short-Term Alternative to CRP

I heard from farmers who repeatedly told me they needed a shorter term easement option than the minimum 10 years required under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

As a result, my first 2018 farm bill proposal was to create the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP), which was ultimately included in the new law. SHIPP is a new voluntary income protection program that would provide participating farmers with a short-term acreage conserving use program, which, unlike traditional CRP, requires a commitment of only three, four, or five years. 

SHIPP is authorized and funded in the 2018 farm bill as a 50,000-acre pilot program in the six Prairie Pothole Region states: South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

2018 Farm Bill: Conservation Title Improvements

I proposed several improvements to conservation programs, especially CRP, during the 2018 farm bill debate, and several of my proposals (or variations thereof) were included in the new law:

  • Increases the national CRP acreage enrollment cap from 24 million acres to 27 million acres.
  • Eliminates the CRP payment limitation on public entities, like rural water districts that use CRP as wellhead protection areas.
  • Allows greater flexibility in haying and grazing on CRP acres.
  • Authorizes cost-share assistance for fencing and water management practices on CRP acres.
  • Requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to target CRP enrollment for states based on a state’s historical CRP enrollment average.
  • Reauthorizes both the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

2018 Farm Bill: Improvements to the U.S. Drought Monitor

Provisions of a Thune bill that would provide tools and direction to USDA to help improve the accuracy of the U.S. Drought Monitor and require the coordination of USDA agencies that use precipitation data to determine livestock grazing loss assistance and stocking rates.

USDA Implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill

Since the 2018 farm bill was enacted, USDA has been working through the implementation process, which includes drafting and publishing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, drafting policies and procedures, and developing software for program sign-ups, payments, and compliance.

Similar to previous farm bills, I continue to closely monitor and work with USDA to ensure their farm bill implementation policies align with the intent of my Agriculture Committee colleagues when we drafted the farm bill.

2018 Farm Bill: Commodity Title Improvements

Several of my proposals to improve the Commodity Title were included in the 2018 farm bill:

  • An amendment I offered, which was accepted on the Senate floor during the farm bill debate, allowed producers the option to switch between the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs in 2021. The final 2018 farm bill included this option and expanded it to include the 2022 and 2023 crop years.
  • A requirement that ARC-County payments be calculated using the physical location of each farm’s tract of land instead of the previous policy, which used a farm’s administrative county to determine payments.
  • Increase plug yields (used when yield data is missing from a farm) from 70 to 80 percent.
  • Allow the use of a crop insurance based trend-adjusted yield to calculate the ARC benchmark yield.
  • Continue to allow the ARC-individual option, which was removed in the House farm bill.

Assistance with USDA

As always, I stand ready to offer assistance to farmers, ranchers, and others in the agriculture community who encounter challenges with current laws and policies administered by USDA. 

Many of the farm bill provisions I’ve drafted for the past four farm bills are a direct result of issues identified by the farmers and ranchers I’ve visited with.

Please feel free to reach out to me or my staff with any issues and concerns you have with USDA or any other federal agency.

Click here for more information on my 2018 farm bill effort.