I’ve written this sentence too many times over the last few years, but South Dakota’s agriculture community is hurting. It has been for a long time. While farmers and ranchers are all too familiar with adversity, the most frustrating part about what they’ve been facing is that it has all been out of their control. Between Mother Nature, multiple trade disputes, and poor commodity prices, things were bad enough. Once a global pandemic struck, things quickly went from bad to worse.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone is hurting right now. We’re all living through what seems like a twisted movie plot. No one is spared from the effects of this pandemic. Tasks as simple as running to the grocery store have been upended. Social distancing has become the new, albeit temporary, normal.
Everyone deserves to see brighter days – and they will soon enough – but I’m fighting particularly hard to ensure our farming and ranching community isn’t left behind in Congress’ coronavirus response. We’ve already passed legislation to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, plus provide nearly $10 billion in emergency funding for producers who have been affected by the pandemic, but more needs to be done.
These last few weeks, all Americans have learned just how important agriculture is in our day-to-day lives. People outside of farm country often take a fully stocked grocery store shelf for granted. Not anymore. As South Dakotans know, those items don’t just appear out of thin air. Someone grows the grain. Someone raises the livestock. Someone runs the operation. Someone ships the food. Together, they all help feed our nation and the world. They have been for generations.
Cattle producers, in particular, have been facing an uphill battle lately. Last month, I spoke directly to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue about the concerns I had been hearing about market volatility from producers in South Dakota. I’ve been keeping pressure on USDA and recently urged them to investigate these matters, which the secretary has agreed to do.
I’ve also formally requested that Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice investigate price manipulation and other anticompetitive activities in the beef market. As I told the attorney general in early April, the cattle industry has experienced similar market volatility before, but the widening profit margin gap between cattle producers and packers raises serious concerns about potential instances of price manipulation and other unfair practices within the beef industry. They need to look into this – now.
I’ve found myself wishing, now more than ever, that there was a simple solution to make things better. Unfortunately, there isn’t one at hand, but I can continue to put in the hard work to ensure I am doing everything possible to help defend and support the agriculture community during this crisis – the same goes for my teams in South Dakota and Washington. We’re here to help. If you’re looking for more information, you can call one of my offices or visit www.thune.senate.gov/COVID19.
America has discovered that heroes come in unlikely forms these days, and I’m reminded of what Paul Harvey once said about what God needed on the eighth day: “A caretaker … Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’ So God made a farmer.” They’re all heroes in my book.