By Sen. John Thune
Most Americans don’t realize the important role agriculture plays in our daily lives. They can easily hop in their car, drive across town where pre-packaged meat, produce, and other items are waiting for them on the shelves at their local grocery store. Everything is easily accessible, ready to be purchased and brought home to fill refrigerators and pantries.
Ask a South Dakotan about agriculture, and you’ll hear an entirely differently story. Farming and ranching make agriculture our state’s top industry. It’s an opportunity to provide for one’s family. It defines a lifestyle. The hard-working farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs throughout South Dakota are among the people responsible for making sure there’s food in America’s grocery stores, restaurants, and schools. And they’re proud of it, too.
Neither farming nor ranching is an easy way to make a living. There’s plenty of blood, sweat, and tears to prove it. It’s not a nine-to-five, stress-free job either. They’re often up before the sun rises and home after it sets. The dirt literally runs through their hands as next week’s weather forecast weighs heavy on their mind. As if farming and ranching aren’t hard enough during the best of times, today’s record low commodity and livestock prices have made it even more difficult.
We’re less than two years away from needing to pass the next farm bill, and given today’s market conditions, it’s not too early to start working on it. Our top priority must be to make production agriculture more sustainable by keeping farmers and ranchers on their land. We can work toward achieving that goal by enacting policies that could help prices rise above production costs, bolster commodity programs, protect soil health, preserve crop insurance, and simplify and streamline conservation programs.
I feel strongly about making sure we get this right, which is why I’ll soon be unveiling multiple farm bill proposals that will address specific portions of most titles of the overall bill – well in advance of any deadline. I think these individual proposals are an important place to start. Once we begin the rollout, I look forward to hearing from South Dakotans about what they think of my proposals and if there are any areas in which we can improve.
I’ve written three farm bills during my time in Congress, having served on both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Next year’s bill will be my fourth. I know what it takes to get these farm bills across the finish line, and I know the farmers and ranchers who will be affected once we do. After having recently met with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who will soon lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I’m confident we’ll have a strong partner who also understands these high-stakes times. Our work begins today.