Recent Op-Eds

After many months of hard work, deliberation, and numerous deadline extensions, the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed the final version of the 2008 Farm Bill. This legislation impacts the lives of all Americans, but its particular importance to South Dakota cannot be overstated.

From the start of the Farm Bill process, I have approached my position on the Senate Agriculture Committee as the seat from which I can do the most to assist South Dakota's farmers and ranchers when it comes to our nation's agricultural policy for the next five years. I believe that several of my provisions in the new Farm Bill will strengthen South Dakota's agriculture economy for a long time to come.

One of the hallmarks of the Farm Bill is my Biofuels Innovation Program. Corn ethanol has been a major success story for parts of South Dakota, but ethanol technology is evolving in exciting ways that can expand production to other crops and other parts of the country.

The Biofuels Innovation Program will provide incentives for the construction of new biorefineries as well as incentives for producers to grow energy dedicated crops for cellulosic ethanol production. The future of ethanol is in wood chips, native grasses, and wheat and corn byproducts -- resources that are abundant in South Dakota.

Oil prices seem to reach record highs almost daily, so homegrown renewable fuels are more important now than ever. The Biofuels Innovation Program is an important step in bringing more ethanol and biodiesel production online to reduce our nation's current overdependence on foreign sources of oil.

America's farm policy is designed to protect producers when things go wrong, and in South Dakota we are all too knowledgeable about the impact drought, floods, and other severe conditions can have on farmers and ranchers. That is why I am pleased the final Farm Bill includes the Senate's Permanent Disaster Program which creates a $3.8 billion dollar trust fund over five years that will be used to provide timely assistance when disaster strikes.

In the past, producers in South Dakota and other states have had to wait for individual Congressional action to receive aid, sometimes waiting years to receive help. The Permanent Disaster Program puts an end to the political games that have defined disaster assistance in the past.

In deliberations in the Senate Agriculture Committee, I made the request that the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) provision in the Farm Bill be modified so it is more specific, which I am proud to say it now is. Additionally, I fought to preserve Loan Deficiency Payment (LDP) beneficial interest rules, which with my changes allow producers to sell their crops at the time when prices are best for them. This provision preserves an important safety net feature. I also worked to include in the Farm Bill provisions that will now keep all county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices open to serve South Dakota's most rural areas.

No legislation is ever perfect, but I believe the 2008 Farm Bill is a major victory for South Dakota. Our state runs on agriculture, be it the production of food crops, ranching, bioenergy, or the conservation programs that make our state a destination for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Personally, serving as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and helping to craft a Farm Bill with so much included that is good for South Dakota has left me proud and excited about the future of our state.

** Senator John Thune serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and is the ranking member of the Energy, Science and Technology Subcommittee. In addition to working to craft the 2008 Farm bill, Senator Thune also played a role in advocating South Dakota's needs during the 2002 Farm Bill when he served on the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.**