U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today issued the following statement after the Senate approved its farm bill, which includes one dozen Thune-authored provisions, by a vote of 86-11. Multiple Thune provisions were included in the base bill and the committee-reported version. Thune’s proposal to allow greater haying and grazing flexibility on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres and his proposal to give landowners the opportunity for a one-time switch in 2021 between the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program and the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program (or vice versa) were adopted on the Senate floor. The bill must now be reconciled with the House-approved version prior to September 30, which is when the current farm bill is set to expire.
“Farmers and ranchers want to know that federal policymakers – many of whom don’t come from agriculture states like South Dakota – truly understand how difficult their way of life can be,” said Thune. “This bipartisan farm bill not only recognizes the uniqueness of the agriculture community, but it makes a significant investment in the future of farming and ranching, and it does so in a fiscally responsible way – thanks, in part, to several of my proposals that are included in the bill.”
“It’s critical for Congress to pass a strong farm bill that puts the priorities of South Dakota agriculture at the top of the list,” said Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. “Thanks to Sen. Thune’s leadership, the Senate bill addresses many of those priorities, and it’s a big step toward getting a final farm bill to the president’s desk before the current one expires this fall. While neither the House nor Senate versions are perfect, Sen. Thune is in a great leadership position to work with the conference committee process to improve the final product and address all of the priorities of South Dakota farmers and ranchers.”
“SDCA commends Sen. Thune and his Senate colleagues on passage of the 2018 farm bill,” said Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA). “While the farm bill is renewed every five years, the work to ensure the farm bill serves farmers and ranchers is ongoing. South Dakota beef producers rely on the conservation and disaster tools provided in the farm bill, and we thank Sen. Thune for his diligence in ensuring the farm bill is finished on time to provide the certainty our producers need to help feed the world.”
“Crop insurance is a vital part of the farm bill and provides an important safety net for farmers,” said Troy Knecht, president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “We appreciate Sen. Thune’s commitment to farmers and his leadership role in drafting and passing this important piece of legislation, which preserves the crop insurance program.”
Thune-authored proposals included in the Senate farm bill:
- Authorization for the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP), which was included in Thune’s bill (S. 499) that he introduced on March 2, 2017. SHIPP is a new voluntary income protection program that would provide participating farmers with a short-term acreage conserving use program, which unlike CRP, would require a commitment of only three to five years.
- Provisions of S. 909, Thune’s Conservation Program Improvement Act (introduced on April 10, 2017), which would eliminate payment limitations for rural water districts or associations that use land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program for wellhead protection areas.
- Additional provisions of S. 909, which would allow land enrolled in wetlands easement programs to be modified, at the owner’s request and expense, for water management, general maintenance, vegetative cover control, or any other purpose. Maintenance of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) easement lands would have to provide equal or greater conservation and wildlife benefits.
- Additional provisions of S. 909 that would allow vegetative cover to be mechanically harvested every three years on land enrolled in CRP under applicable practices, with no more than one-third harvested each year and a 25 percent reduction in CRP rental payments for each acre mechanically harvested or grazed.
- Provisions of S. 1259 (introduced on May 25, 2017), which would require ARC-County payments be calculated using the physical location of each farm’s tract of land instead of the current policy, which uses a farm’s administrative county to determine payments. The House farm bill also includes this proposal.
- Provisions of S. 1479 (introduced on June 29, 2017), which would greatly improve the approval rate of Livestock Indemnity Program applications for death losses due to weather-related diseases. USDA, at Thune’s request, approved this administratively on April 24, 2018.
- Provisions of S. 2316 (introduced on January 17, 2018), which would provide premium discount assistance for individual Native American ranchers who purchase policies for the Risk Management Agency Pasture, Rangeland Forage crop insurance programs for the first time.
- Provisions of S. 2487 (introduced on March 2, 2018), bipartisan legislation that would direct USDA to strengthen its data management systems by establishing a secure and confidential conservation and farm productivity data warehouse, which could be used for cutting-edge research and analysis of conservation practices and to determine their economic value.
- Provisions of S. 2614 (introduced on March 22, 2018), which would authorize the USDA secretary to allow cost-sharing for fencing and water distribution practices for land enrolled in CRP.
- Provisions of S. 2749 (introduced on April 25, 2018), bipartisan legislation that would improve the current ARC program and improve its safety net potential by expanding the yield data sources that are used to calculate payments and by including procedures that would adjust payments to allow for quality losses.
- Thune’s Improved Soil Moisture and Precipitation Monitoring Act (S. 2936, introduced on May 23, 2018), which would provide tools and direction to the USDA to help improve the accuracy of the U.S. Drought Monitor and require the coordination of USDA agencies that use precipitation data to determine livestock grazing loss assistance and stocking rates.
- Thune’s amendment to allow those who are enrolled in ARC or PLC a one-time option to change their selection in crop year 2021, the mid-point of the 2018 farm bill. The 2021 selection will be locked in for the 2021-2023 crop years. Currently, landowners are required to commit to one program or the other for the duration of a farm bill.
Thune, who to date has introduced roughly 40 legislative initiatives to reform and strengthen the farm bill, started introducing individual marker bills in early 2017. Thune’s bills covered nearly every title of the overall farm bill. He started this process more than one year ago to ensure a final farm bill reaches the president’s desk before the current bill expires.
Thune has served on the Agriculture Committee in both the House and Senate and is currently the only member of the South Dakota congressional delegation to serve on the committee. Thune has written three farm bills during his time in Congress, and the 2018 farm bill is his fourth. Agriculture is South Dakota’s top industry, with more than 43 million acres of agricultural land throughout the state.