Senator John ThuneAlthough every business, both large and small, is an important economic engine for South Dakota, agriculture remains the central industry in our state's economy. South Dakota farmers and ranchers work hard to meet our nation's food and fuel needs, often in the face of challenging natural conditions and market forces. As a U.S. Senator, I am firmly committed to working with South Dakota's diverse agricultural producers to keep our state's farm economy strong.
In the last session of Congress, I was privileged to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and I am pleased to continue serving on this important Committee again this Congress. In the last session, the Agriculture committee was primarily focused on writing the 2008 Farm Bill, and I was proud to be a part of that process. Throughout the Farm Bill debate, I was actively engaged in improving the bill to better serve South Dakota's particular agriculture needs.
I am once again the ranking Republican member on the Science, Energy, and Technology Subcommittee. From this position, I authored the Farm Bill provision creating the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). This program is designed to help those producers who grow non-edible crops for renewable energy production, as well as support the construction of new biorefineries and bioenergy plants across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has implemented the first part of BCAP, which provides payments to producers who deliver biomass such as crop residues to local biorefineries. I will continue to monitor BCAP's implementation from this important subcommittee position.
I am also a member of the Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry, and Credit Subcommittee. Earlier this month, I visited the Black Hills National Forest, where I met with forest service leaders, landowners, and local officials to discuss the devastation and fire hazards caused by the pine beetle infestation. While in the Black Hills, I outlined a comprehensive forest management strategy to combat the spread of the beetles through aggressive, effective forest management and the creation of an energy market for waste material such as slash piles and affected trees. The Forestry Subcommittee will be a good platform to address the needs of the health of the Black Hills and other forested areas across the country.
One of the most important victories for South Dakota in the 2008 Farm Bill was the creation of a permanent disaster relief program. In the past, farmers and ranchers who experienced catastrophic losses due to natural disasters were forced to rely on Congress to authorize disaster relief. All too often this process was subject to Washington political games at the expense of producers. With the creation of permanent disaster assistance programs such as the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, South Dakotans now have a reliable safety net in place when disaster strikes. I am also a member of the Production, Income Protection, and Price Support Subcommittee, where I will have an opportunity to work closely on disaster relief and other important issues.
South Dakota's agriculture economy has exciting opportunities ahead. The continued development of the biofuels industry, expanding overseas markets for livestock, and new uses for forest material all hold promise for South Dakota producers. Representing South Dakota in the Senate means working with many different interests, but agriculture is a top priority for our state. I am excited to continue working as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee on these important issues.