Senator John ThuneMany of us spend the days after Christmas reflecting on the year that has passed and looking toward the year that is to come. As the start of 2009 will bring the start of a new session of Congress, I am looking forward to building on the successes of 2008.
Last year brought about a new Farm Bill, and I am proud to have been a part of it from my seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. After many rounds of negotiations between committee members, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and struggles with the White House, a new Farm Bill was enacted which I believe is already benefitting South Dakota.
I worked hard to successfully include a permanent disaster program in the new Farm Bill, which will provide timely assistance for losses due to natural disasters such as floods and droughts. I am relieved that such assistance will no longer be subject to the political whims of Congress.
The Farm Bill also included my Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides incentives for second generation biofuel crop production and second generation biorefinery construction. It also reauthorizes the Sun Grant Initiative, which is a program coordinated by South Dakota State University to study renewable fuels production.
I am also encouraged by all that has been accomplished to improve life in Indian Country. I was proud to work with tribal leaders and law enforcement officials in South Dakota to increase the police presence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, a move that made significant strides in improving public safety.
Similarly, this year the Senate approved my legislation to redirect $2 billion out of a $50 billion foreign aid bill for some of the most pressing needs in Indian Country, including public safety, water projects, and health care access.
Of course, no one piece of legislation can do everything necessary to address problems on our nation’s reservations and no farm program can be successful without proper oversight and direction. In the coming year, Congress will have to work with the new Administration to ensure proper implementation of the law.
The new Administration will be responsible for disbursing the funds to Indian Country that were authorized by my legislation, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure that the funding remains a priority in the coming year.
South Dakota never stops farming, regardless of who is in the White House or the Agriculture Department or whether or not a Farm Bill is being written. I believe that policies like my Biomass Crop Assistance Program are important not only for farmers but for our renewable fuels industry, and I will be working to ensure that it and others like it are properly implemented in the coming year.
The dawn of a new year is always a good time for reflection on the past and planning for the future. I look forward to new opportunities to serve South Dakota in the coming year as we embark on a new Congress and a new administration. I also would like to take this opportunity to wish all South Dakotans a happy, safe, and healthy new year.