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More Farm in the Farm Bill

By Sen. John Thune

June 14, 2024

Agriculture is the lifeblood of South Dakota. Our state’s farmers and ranchers rise before dawn and put in the hard work necessary to feed America. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have the opportunity to advocate for South Dakota producers, and the farm bills that Congress takes up every few years are among my top priorities as a senator.

I’ve had a hand in crafting four farm bills during my time in Congress, and my number one goal is always to ensure each bill reflects the needs and priorities of the men and women on the ground: farmers and ranchers, their families, and everyone else who helps strengthen our state’s agriculture community. As I travel around the state, I always take special note of my conversations with agriculture producers, and many of the bills I introduce for inclusion in the farm bill are based on these conversations.

The current farm bill will expire later this year, which is why Congress needs to focus on advancing the next farm bill. Not only are deadlines approaching, but updates are needed to a number of farm programs, and this work is all the more critical given the headwinds farmers and ranchers are currently facing.

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), the lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently released a farm bill framework to get this process moving. It builds off of House Republicans’ farm bill, which advanced out of the House Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, progress in the Senate has been hamstrung by my Democrat colleagues’ insistence on prioritizing things like climate over the needs of farmers and ranchers. I hope that this new framework and the action in the House will refocus efforts on farmers and ranchers – instead of Democrats’ climate obsession – and move deliberations along.

In preparation for this next farm bill, I introduced a number of pieces of legislation that I hope to get included in the final bill. As I mentioned, they are based on the conversations I’ve had with farmers and ranchers as I travel throughout South Dakota, as well as events I’ve held to hear from producers about their priorities for the farm bill.

Importantly, this framework would make improvements to the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs, which are essential elements of the farm safety net. I’m pleased that the Senate framework also contains measures from a number of the bills I introduced. It includes elements of my Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Improvement Act, which would make CRP a more effective option for producers. It also includes my CRP Flexibility Act, which would provide additional drought flexibilities for CRP contract holders. And it includes legislation I introduced to make crop insurance more affordable for young farmers, plus elements of another bill I introduced to increase processing options for livestock producers and expand smaller meatpackers’ capacity are incorporated into the framework.

This framework is an important step forward in producing a farm bill that delivers for farmers and ranchers. Again, I hope that my Democrat colleagues will approach pursuing a bipartisan farm bill with a new seriousness about helping farmers and ranchers, not advancing their climate agenda. There needs to be more farm in the farm bill, and farmers and ranchers can’t afford any more unnecessary delays.