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 Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) released a draft of the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill. Today’s farm bill rollout comes nearly 15 months to the day after Thune began his legislative effort to introduce multiple individual farm bill proposals that have since covered nearly every title of the overall farm bill. Thune, who to date has introduced nearly one dozen standalone bills, which contain roughly 40 legislative initiatives and reforms, started this process in early 2017 in an effort to ensure a final farm bill reaches the president’s desk ahead of this fall’s expiration of the current farm bill. The Agriculture Committee has scheduled a mark-up for Wednesday, June 13, at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and it will be livestreamed at www.agriculture.senate.gov.
“Farmers and ranchers are already dealing with uncertain markets and commodity prices that are just half of what they were five years ago,” said Thune. “The last thing we need to do is to sew greater confusion and uncertainty into these hardworking people’s lives. Ask anyone in the agriculture community, and they’ll tell you that we need a new farm bill, and this draft is a big step in the right direction. I look forward to considering this bill in the Agriculture Committee, a process that has historically been a bipartisan effort – and something I hope we’re able to continue this year through final passage of the farm bill.
“I’d also like to thank Chairman Roberts and his staff for all of the work that they’ve put into this product. Writing a farm bill isn’t easy. Having helped write three of them myself – this will be my fourth – I know that all too well. I’m glad that they’ve incorporated several of my proposals into this draft bill, as well. Several of the bills that I have introduced over the last 15 months are the direct result of input that I received from South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. No one knows what’s needed to reform agriculture policy better than they do, and that’s proven by the fact that the Agriculture Committee has included so many of their ideas in the base farm bill.”
While the draft is a good starting point, Thune believes there are areas for improvement, and he intends to work with Chairman Roberts through the amendment process to strengthen the bill so it better serves the needs of the Northern Great Plains agriculture community.
Thune proposals included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft 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 the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), would require a commitment of only three to five years.
- Provisions of S. 1259 (introduced on May 25, 2017), which would require Agriculture Risk Coverage (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.
- All 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 acres 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 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 will be his fourth. Agriculture is South Dakota’s top industry, with more than 43 million acres of agricultural land throughout the state.