Senator John ThuneThe distance between South Dakota and Washington should not be a barrier between citizens and their elected representatives, and as your U.S. Senator I take very seriously the responsibility to keep you informed about the most important issues. Over the last few months I have frequently updated South Dakotans about the 2007 Farm Bill as it has worked its way through the U.S. Senate.
Last month, Senators on both sides of the aisle were very frustrated when debate on the Farm bill came to a standstill. It was certainly unfortunate that the Democrat Leader blocked amendments from being considered to the Farm Bill - especially since the last Farm bill expired on September 30th. Although the Senate wasted two weeks squabbling over what amendments would be considered, I returned to Washington D.C. last week and urged my colleagues and Senate Leaders to reach an agreement on the overall number of amendments to the Farm bill. After all, such an agreement that was fair to both Republicans and Democrats could reactivate the Farm Bill in the U.S. Senate.
I am pleased that as a result of negotiations, the Democrat and Republican Leaders reached an agreement under which Republicans can offer 20 amendments and Democrats can offer 20 amendments. This step forward will keep the Farm Bill moving closer to passage in the Senate.
During the debate on the Farm Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this year, I was able to address many of South Dakota's agriculture priorities. In the committee deliberations, I successfully included an amendment to prevent the closing of critical FSA offices, an amendment to protect Loan Deficiency Payments, and a provision to strengthen mandatory country of origin labeling. My amendments also strengthened the "sodsaver" provision and increased access to vital nutrition programs for Native Americans for tribes in South Dakota and across the nation.
Historically, Farm Bills are passed with open debate in the Senate and I am pleased that an agreement has been reached which will allow us to move forward. I expect the Senate to pass its version of the Farm Bill before Christmas. I am also hopeful that a final bill can be worked out between the House and Senate and sent to the President for his signature early next year
The Senate Farm Bill has been more than a year in the making. I am pleased to be writing this week with the good news that a much clearer roadmap to Farm Bill passage is finally in place in the U.S. Senate.