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Listening is One of the Best Ways to Stay Informed

By Sen. John Thune

September 13, 2019

Shortly before the Senate adjourned for its annual August state work period, I went to the Senate floor to lay out my agenda for what I wanted to accomplish while I was home. At the top of my list was meeting with as many South Dakotans as possible, which has always been the best part of my job. I was also looking forward to fair season – a great time to connect with people and taste some of the most iconic fair food our state has to offer: ice cream, pork sandwiches, milkshakes, cheese curds, Brown County’s famous Tubby Burger, and more.   

After several weeks crisscrossing the state and putting on more miles (and calories) than I can count, I wanted to report on my progress and let you know how much I appreciate your feedback and advice. One of the most endearing qualities of South Dakotans is their honesty, particularly about my work in Washington, and that honesty is what keeps me grounded and focused on what matters. 

During the several weeks I was home, I attended the South Dakota State Fair, the Sioux Empire Fair, the Turner County Fair, and the Brown County Fair, and yes, I’m still dreaming of the Tubby Burger I inhaled for lunch – a burger standard by which all other burgers should be judged. I held town hall meetings in Philip, Wall, Lemmon, and Bison, and I toured local businesses in communities in nearly every corner of the state.  

I received a lot of feedback along the way, but one of the most consistent concerns I heard from folks was about the agriculture economy and how tough of a year it’s been for most producers in South Dakota. You don’t need to talk to many people to realize how real of a concern this issue is for folks. 

I’ll take a back seat to no one when it comes to my support for our farmers and ranchers, so I’ve used every opportunity possible to relay what I’m hearing from the South Dakota agriculture community directly to the president. I met with the president twice during the first week of the fall work period in Washington, and during both meetings, I had the opportunity put a plug in for farm country. Believe me, there’s zero ambiguity when it comes to my position on these issues when I’m face to face with the president.   

There have been bright spots along the way, including the approval of year-round E15 sales and news that the administration has reached a deal to increase U.S. beef sales to Europe, but as positive as those developments might be, farm country is still hurting. In my opinion, the most effective way to provide certainty and additional security for these folks would be for Congress to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and I strongly urge Democrats in the House of Representatives to indicate they’d be willing to consider it, because I can tell you that the Senate stands ready to act. 

If there was one theme or takeaway from my time in South Dakota during the August break, it would have to be the constant reminder that I’m tremendously lucky to be able to represent this state in the U.S. Senate. It never ceases to amaze me what South Dakotans are capable of, which is why I’m not only energized by the time I spent at home, but I’m looking forward to continuing to fight for South Dakota’s priorities in Washington this fall.