U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed his priorities for the 2023 farm bill, which would be the fifth farm bill he’s helped write during his time in Congress. Thune noted the importance of serving on the Senate Agriculture Committee, which gives him an important platform from which he can address the needs of South Dakota agriculture producers.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, farming and ranching are industries that are particularly subject to the whims of the weather.
“Just one storm can wipe out an entire herd or crop – sometimes in a matter of minutes.
“Last Thursday, severe storms struck eastern South Dakota, and farmers were hit hard.
“Fortunately it was too early in the season to wipe out any crops, but farmers lost essential equipment and resources – feed, grain bins, outbuildings, and more.
“My office will be doing everything it can to make sure those affected get the assistance they need to recover.
“And I know many are already planning to rebuild.
“Mr. President, whether it’s a natural disaster or an ordinary day, farmers and ranchers are always at the top of my mind here in the Senate.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of our South Dakota economy, and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that our farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to help feed our country.
“I’m fortunate enough to be a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which gives me an important platform from which to address the needs of South Dakota ag producers.
“Right now, a big focus of mine is the 2023 farm bill.
“I’ve already held the first of a series of roundtables to hear from South Dakota farmers and ranchers about what they need out of the 2023 bill.
“And I’ve introduced the first of what will be a number of proposals that I hope to get included in next year’s legislation.
“My Conservation Reserve Program Improvement Act, which I introduced in March, would make CRP grazing a more attractive option by providing cost-share payments for all CRP practices for the establishment of grazing infrastructure, including fencing and water distribution.
“It would also increase the annual payment limit for CRP, which has not changed since 1985, to help account for inflation and the increase in land value.
“I’m also working with colleagues from agriculture states on legislation based on my conversations with South Dakota farmers and ranchers.
“Last week I joined Senator Klobuchar to introduce the Agriculture Innovation Act.
“Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture collects reams of data on conservation practices.
“The problem is that a lot of this data is often not analyzed and presented in a way that would be useful for farmers and ranchers.
“The legislation Senator Klobuchar and I have introduced would provide for better processing and development of the data USDA collects, so that farmers and ranchers can evaluate the impact of conservation and other production practices on things like soil health, crop yields, and profitability.
“Our bill would make it easier for farmers and ranchers to decide what conservation practices to adopt by, among other things, helping producers identify the ways adopting conservation practices can improve their bottom line.
“And Senator Klobuchar and I will be working to get this legislation included in the 2023 farm bill.
“Mr. President, in addition to farm bill priorities, I’ve been spending a lot of time focused on agriculture and trade.
“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers already send their products around the globe.
“But with Russia’s war in Ukraine – and its devastating impact on Ukrainian agriculture – American ag producers are facing added responsibility when it comes to feeding the world.
“Unfortunately, for some time now I’ve been hearing reports of ocean carriers refusing to transport American agricultural products.
“This would be a difficult situation at any time, as export markets around the world are critically important to American producers.
“But it is particularly painful at a time when inflation is soaring and the supply chain is under significant strain – and when there is an increased need to get American agriculture products abroad thanks to the war in Ukraine.
“That’s why I introduced legislation – the Ocean Shipping Reform Act – to address these kinds of shipping problems and create a more level playing field for American producers.
“My bipartisan legislation would give the Federal Maritime Commission increased authority to respond to unfair ocean carrier practices – whether that involves a refusal to carry certain cargo, like agricultural commodities, or discriminating against certain commodities for export.
“It would also provide the FMC with tools to more quickly resolve detention and demurrage disputes, which would bring greater efficiency and transparency to a process that leaves many shippers frustrated, especially agriculture producers and other small businesses.
“I was very pleased that the Senate passed my bill at the end of March.
“And I am working with my colleagues in the House to advance this legislation so that it can get to the president’s desk.
“I also recently led a letter with 23 of my Senate Republican colleagues to the U.S. trade representative and the secretary of agriculture urging them to prioritize increased access to foreign markets for American producers, including – and especially – American ag producers.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration has not made market access commitments a priority in its trade agenda, including the proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
“And the administration has failed to pursue any ambitious market-opening initiatives or comprehensive trade agreements.
“Mr. President, trade has played a large part in America’s economic success for decades, and it is critical for American ag producers, who depend on exporting their products.
“It is unacceptable that the administration has dropped the ball on pursuing increased market access for American producers.
“I am also less than impressed by the president’s failure to put forward a confirmable nominee for the post of chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
“And while the president has – finally – put forward a nominee for undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at the Department of Agriculture, it has taken him far too long to fill this position, which plays a critical role in advocating for American producers when it comes to world trade.
“I pressed the U.S. trade representative on the administration’s failure to prioritize a meaningful trade and agriculture agenda during a recent Finance Committee hearing, and I will continue to maintain pressure on the administration to expand export opportunities for our nation’s workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.
“Mr. President, our nation depends on our farmers and ranchers.
“And I am profoundly grateful for all the determined men and women who have chosen and passed on this way of life.
“I am honored to represent South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers here in the Senate.
“And I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that they have all the resources they need to continue to feed our nation, and the world.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”