Senator John ThuneSpring has arrived in South Dakota, and we are once again reminded of how critical thriving farms are to our state. South Dakota farmers and ranchers work hard to maintain their lands, knowing that proper land management increases the likelihood of future success. Through conservation and smart land management, South Dakota can continue to reap benefits from agriculture, hunting, and tourism.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allocated another 33,500 acres to South Dakota for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This program was reauthorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, which I was closely involved with crafting as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. CRP provides incentives to agricultural producers to preserve wildlife habitats, which helps improve South Dakota’s gamebird population. This pays off in more hunting opportunities for South Dakotans and for visitors to our state, which is a major economic engine in South Dakota.
The Farm Bill also included provisions I supported to continue and strengthen the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program. These important conservation initiatives all support healthy game populations in our state. South Dakota's conservation efforts and the cooperation between landowners, state, and federal policymakers are a justifiable source of pride for our state.
In March, I had the distinct honor of receiving the Ducks Unlimited Federal Elected Official Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award. I believe this award is less a reflection of anything I have done in the Senate than an award for all South Dakotans who have worked hard to practice responsible land management in our state. I was also recently recognized with the Teaming with Wildlife Award from the National Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Again, I believe this honor is more about the good work being done by South Dakota landowners.
This spring South Dakota farmers and ranchers are again making management decisions that are profitable and responsible. Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and good land management practices can pay off in increased tourism, which is also important to our state. I look forward to continuing to work with South Dakota farmers and ranchers to create smart policies which encourage economic development to the fullest.