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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed his goals for the 2023 farm bill. Thune noted that he is fortunate to be a long-time member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which gives him an important platform from which to address the needs of South Dakota agriculture producers.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, it’s now been more than three years since the 2018 farm bill, and it’s time to start thinking about the next one.
“The House Agriculture Committee has already begun holding hearings on the 2023 farm bill, and I am hoping that the Senate Agriculture Committee will begin holding hearings soon as well.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of our economy in South Dakota, and advocating for farmers and ranchers is one of my top priorities here in the Senate.
“I’m fortunate enough to be a long-time member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which gives me an important platform from which to address the needs of South Dakota ag producers.
“During my time in Congress, I’ve worked on four farm bills, and I’m particularly proud of the nearly 20 measures I was able to get included in the 2018 farm bill.
“Among other things, I authored provisions to improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, improve the accuracy of the U.S. Drought Monitor, and include soil health as a research priority at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I was also able to secure a number of improvements to the Conservation Reserve Program, including a provision to increase the CRP acreage cap, increased flexibility for acres enrolled in CRP, and cost-sharing for fencing and water distribution practices on CRP-enrolled acres.
“I also secured approval for a new, short-term alternative to CRP – the Soil Health and Income Protection Program – to provide an option for farmers who don’t want to take their land out of production for the 10 to 15 years required under the Conservation Reserve Program.
“And I was able to secure important provisions to increase the approval rate of Livestock Indemnity Program applications for death losses due to weather-related diseases.
“Mr. President, I would never have been able to get all this done without the input of South Dakota farmers and ranchers.
“These provisions were a direct result of extensive conversations with South Dakota ag producers, who provided insight into the challenges they were facing and what improvements could make things easier in this demanding way of life.
“As I look to the 2023 bill, I will once again be relying on South Dakota farmers and ranchers to lend their firsthand knowledge to this effort.
“Last Friday, I held the first of a series of roundtables I’m planning to hold to hear from South Dakota agriculture producers.
“Friday’s roundtable focused on the commodity and crop insurance titles of the next farm bill, and I was grateful to be able to hear from representatives of South Dakota Farm Bureau and South Dakota corn, soybean, and wheat producers, as well as crop insurance industry representatives.
“I will be holding additional roundtables to cover other farm bill priorities, including livestock, conservation, and forestry issues.
“And, of course, I will also continue to rely on the many informal conversations I have with South Dakota ag producers as I travel around the state.
“There’s nothing worse than having “experts” in Washington come in and dictate to the real experts – the farmers and ranchers who spend every day producing the food that feeds our nation.
“And my goal is always to make sure that any farm legislation is directly informed by farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and around our country.
“Mr. President, I already have a list of issues that I’m looking to see addressed in the next farm bill, and I plan to refine that list over the coming months in my conversations with South Dakota ag producers.
“One thing that emerged clearly from Friday’s roundtable is the importance of the farm safety net and the critical role of crop insurance and commodity programs.
“Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments, which help offset losses when prices for agricultural products drop, are not always proving sufficient, particularly with our current high inflation, which has sent the price of inputs like fertilizer soaring.
“As I mentioned earlier, I was able to secure improvements to the Agriculture Risk Coverage program in the 2018 farm bill, and I plan to seek further commodity title program improvements in the 2023 farm bill.
“I also want to secure further improvements to the Conservation Reserve Program.
“From my conversations with South Dakota ag producers, it’s clear that we need to make changes to ensure that CRP continues to be an effective option for producers and landowners.
“Last week, I introduced the Conservation Reserve Program Improvement Act, which I will work to get included in the 2023 farm bill.
“Among other things, my legislation 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.
“And it would increase the annual payment limit for CRP, which has not changed since 1985, to help account for inflation and the increase in land value.
“This would expand the enrollment options available to landowners to ensure that the program effectively serves farmers and ranchers as well as conservation goals.
“The Conservation Reserve Program Improvement Act is the first of multiple bills that I plan to introduce in the run-up to the 2023 farm bill to address the concerns of farmers and ranchers.
“One issue that I have been working on extensively over the past year is the challenges facing livestock producers, particularly cattle producers, and I will work to make sure the farm bill provides resources to help them face these challenges.
“Mr. President, the life of a farmer or rancher is a challenging one.
“The work often starts long before the sun rises, and concludes long after the sun has set.
“And the labor can be backbreaking.
“Not to mention the deep uncertainty that goes along with this existence.
“There are few other industries so subject to the whims of the weather, which can wipe out an entire crop or herd in a very short period of time.
“I am profoundly grateful for all those who have chosen and continued this way of life – often for generations.
“The food we eat every day depends upon their work, and our country would not long survive without them.
“I am very proud to have the honor of representing South Dakota farmers and ranchers here in the Senate.
“And I will continue to work every day to ensure that their needs are addressed.
“I look forward to ensuring that the 2023 farm bill reflects the priorities of South Dakota farmers and ranchers, and farmers and ranchers around our great country.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”