U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today convened a meeting between him and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Steve Censky and USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey to discuss what’s being done to strengthen the agriculture economy. Thune pressed Censky and Northey on several issues, including finalizing the rules for the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments to producers, allowing haying and grazing of cover crops on prevent plant acres prior to the current USDA-mandated November 1 harvest date, and conducting a general Conservation Reserve Program sign-up in time to enroll acres before the 2020 crop year, which would strengthen conservation efforts and help boost commodity prices.
“The one thing farmers and ranchers need now more than ever is certainty,” said Thune. “While USDA doesn’t have authority over Mother Nature, it does have the authority to help mitigate some of the pain that’s being felt in the agriculture community in South Dakota and around the country, and I hope it acts quickly.
“Producers will be the first to tell you that they’d much rather receive a check from the marketplace than from the federal government, but we’ve designed agricultural safety net programs for exactly the situation many folks find themselves in today. In addition to these existing programs, by taking a few commonsense steps, like by allowing producers to graze or mechanically harvest cover crops on prevent plant acres ahead of November 1, which in some parts of South Dakota, and in many other states, could see snow by then, we can help the farmers and ranchers who really need it.”
Earlier today, Thune pressed other USDA leaders and a member of the president’s Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives at an Agriculture Committee hearing about what’s being done to conclude various trade deals around the world, which would also help create the certainty that farmers and ranchers desperately need.