U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how the Biden administration’s policies are hurting farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. Thune noted that South Dakota producers are struggling with the burden of inflation and high input costs.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, farming and ranching are the lifeblood of my home state, and a way of life for many South Dakotans.
“And advocating for farmers and ranchers is one of my top priorities here in Congress.
“As a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’ve been able to help shape multiple farm bills and make sure that South Dakota agriculture producers’ voices are heard here in Washington.
“Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of reports from South Dakota producers and ag exporters about ocean carriers refusing to transport American agricultural products.
“This is obviously a major concern for farmers and ranchers, who are already struggling with the burden of inflation and high input costs and rely on exports for part of their livelihood.
“That’s why I recently introduced bipartisan legislation to address violations of free and fair competition in shipping and create a more level playing field for American producers.
“Our bill gives the Federal Maritime Commission greater authority to respond to discriminatory ocean carrier practices, and it provides the FMC with tools to more quickly resolve detention and demurrage disputes.
“This legislation will bring greater efficiency and transparency to a process that leaves many shippers frustrated, and bring long-term positive changes to the maritime supply chain, which I hope will benefit ag exporters, importers, and consumers alike.
“Another one of my priorities lately has been addressing the Biden administration’s proposed Waters of the United States – or WOTUS – rule.
“WOTUS concerns which water features are regulated at the federal level.
“Now, generally the Clean Water Act only calls for navigable waters to be regulated at the federal level – things like rivers and streams that connect to larger bodies of water.
“But like President Obama before him, President Biden is trying to expand federal jurisdiction to regulate things like ditches, prairie potholes, and streams that only flow when it rains.
“Needless to say, this would subject nearly every corner of South Dakota to this D.C. land grab.
“Farmers and ranchers could be subjected to the time-consuming process of having each and every pothole and ditch examined by federal regulators, and they could face massive fines should they run afoul of D.C. regulators looking to halt everyday farming and ranching practices.
“That’s not acceptable.
“Any WOTUS rule that is going to work for farmers and ranchers has to include categorical exclusions for features like ditches, prairie potholes, and stock ponds.
“That’s why I recently led the entire Senate Republican Conference in writing to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Biden administration’s proposed WOTUS rule.
“We urged the administration to suspend its WOTUS rulemaking until the Supreme Court rules on the Clean Water Act case it’s currently considering, which could effectively invalidate the Biden WOTUS regulations.
“Implementing the WOTUS rule now, when it could be overturned in the near future, would subject farmers and ranchers to an unacceptable level of uncertainty as they plan for the upcoming planting season.
“It’s very likely that the Supreme Court will force the administration to go back to the drawing board, which would hopefully result in a less intrusive and more workable rule that won’t subject farmers and ranchers to even more Washington red tape.
“Mr. President, as a supporter of South Dakota and our nation’s corn and soybean farmers – and a supporter of clean energy – I’ve long championed the clean-energy potential of biofuels.
“The EPA’s renewable fuel standard, which requires that a minimum volume of renewable fuel be sold in the United States each year, is a significant tool for reducing the carbon footprint of our transportation sector.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration has shown a willingness to undermine the blending targets set by the renewable fuel standard, going as far as a proposal to retroactively reduce the 2020 renewable volume obligation, which had already been finalized.
“The Biden EPA tried to suggest that these cuts would be made up for with higher 2022 blending targets, but with a new precedent, there would be nothing to stop the administration from again caving to oil refiners and retroactively reducing volume obligations in the future.
“That’s why I recently joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in urging the EPA to prioritize the renewable fuel standard by maintaining the increased blending requirements for 2022, denying all pending small refinery exemptions, eliminating proposed retroactive cuts to the 2020 renewable volume obligations, and setting 2021 renewable fuel standard volumes at the statutory levels.
“Unfortunately, the administration remains almost singularly focused on electric vehicles, rather than on the readily available and proven clean-energy contributions of biofuels.
“Ethanol, biodiesel, and now sustainable aviation fuel can drive down emissions and help reduce our demand for oil – an important consideration given soaring gas prices and the fact that this administration is forcing us to rely more on foreign oil production.
“Now, currently some of my colleagues are promoting a report that was conveniently issued right before yesterday’s EPW Committee hearing on the renewable fuel standard.
“My colleagues, who rarely pass on an opportunity to malign biofuels, say the report undercuts the growing body of research that says biofuels cut emissions by as much as 46 percent or more compared to gasoline.
“To this I will say that if you are concerned about accurate accounting of biofuel emissions, I invite you to cosponsor my bill, the bipartisan Adopt GREET Act.
“This bill would require the EPA to update its greenhouse gas modeling for ethanol and biodiesel by using the Department of Energy’s GREET Model.
“Let’s put energy technologies head-to-head, and I call on the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee to mark up my bipartisan bill.
“Mr. President, biofuels also provide a hugely important market for corn and soybean farmers, whose crops and their byproducts go into biofuel production.
“And it’s incredibly unfortunate that the administration continues to overlook the clean-energy potential of biofuels and the associated benefits for our nation’s farmers.
“I sent two letters to President Biden with a number of my colleagues seeking a meeting to discuss all the ways biofuels could complement his agenda, and noting the bipartisan support for ethanol and biodiesel.
“Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that the president and his administration had little interest in the proven clean-energy potential of biofuels.
“But I will continue to do everything I can here in Washington to promote this clean-energy resource and expand opportunities for South Dakota producers.
“Mr. President, no matter the season, South Dakota farmers and ranchers will always be one of my top priorities here in Washington.
“I continue to work to help farmers and ranchers deal with the challenges of inflation, which are hitting our farm communities hard, and I continue to press the administration to ensure that the meatpacking industry is held accountable for any unfair practices.
“Whatever the challenges – and in the farming life there are always many – our nation’s farmers and ranchers keep pushing forward to feed our nation, and the world.
“And I will continue to do all I can to ensure that they have the resources they need to carry out that mission.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”