Senator John ThuneBeginning mid-October, blaze orange vests and hats are common sights in South Dakota’s corn fields, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands and sloughs. October is synonymous with pheasant hunting for many South Dakotans, as well as for many visitors to our state. I personally am looking forward to joining family and friends in exploring South Dakota’s great open spaces and to experiencing the thrill that comes with filling a limit of ringnecks.
While serving in the House of Representatives, I served on the House Committee on Agriculture and played an active role in the 2002 Farm Bill. This legislation created a six-state, 500,000-acre Farmable Wetlands Pilot Project that would allow frequently farmed wetlands, surrounded by buffers or filter strips, to be eligible for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). In the 2002 Farm Bill, this pilot program was expanded and extended through the duration of the Farm Bill to recognize that farmers and ranchers are great stewards of the land.
One of the results of this program is the continued protection of habitats in which pheasants thrive. I will fight to ensure that this year’s Farm Bill will continue this important program.
The Farm Bill has the potential to have a major impact on South Dakota that goes beyond preserving and enhancing pheasant habitats. Earlier this year I unveiled bipartisan legislation to spur the production of cellulosic ethanol. My proposal was adopted in the Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives, and I will fight to ensure that it remains in the Senate’s version of the bill.
Cellulosic ethanol, produced from homegrown sources like corn stover, wheat straw, switchgrass and wood chips, has incredible potential to supplement corn-based ethanol. But if cellulosic ethanol is to achieve its potential, it is critical that Congress help this industry overcome initial market barriers.
My legislation would spur the construction of biorefineries across the country and provide incentives to farmers in surrounding areas to grow energy-dedicated crops that can eventually supply these biorefineries in a cost-effective, environment-friendly way. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is a large step forward in securing our nation, and the inclusion of cellulosic ethanol in our strategy will be critical.
The Farm Bill will continue to keep my attention throughout October, but I wanted to take this opportunity to wish South Dakotans and our guests the best of luck for safe and successful hunting this October and beyond. Please treat public and private land with respect, and please follow all licensing laws and safety guidelines. I encourage all hunters to visit the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department’s website at www.sdgfp.info for information about safe and legal hunting.
Good luck, and save some birds for me. I’ll be thinking of you as our Farm Bill efforts continue. My goal is to create a Farm Bill that continues the positive trends in agriculture and outdoor recreation South Dakota is currently enjoying.