Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) says the upcoming Farm Bill debate will be tough.
"It will undoubtedly present the greatest challenge of any I have helped draft due to the limited amount of funding available in the current budget environment," he says.
The issue is the federal deficit
"For the past year, I have met and visited with farmers and ranchers across South Dakota, and they are very much aware of the current debt crisis and are willing to contribute even more to reduce the federal debt," he says. "Their only ask is that the level of their contribution to reduce the national debt be matched equally by similar reductions to other federal programs."
According to Thune, U.S. farmers and ranchers are being singled out by non-farming interests and by urban members of Congress who are seeking to reduce crucial Farm Bill safety net programs to the point of offering little or no protection when natural disasters destroy crops and livestock.
"South Dakota's agriculture producers have not asked me for a handout," Thune says. "They would much rather earn income directly from crop and livestock sales and from the land—not the government. In fact, they have told me they are willing to give up Farm Bill direct payments in exchange for a continued secure crop insurance program, and I have made my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee aware that preserving crop insurance and providing an adequate safety net are my highest Farm Bill priorities."
Thune says he will be working to preserve conservation programs in the Farm Bill. They "provide the land stewardship tools farmers and ranchers need to keep their operations sustainable so they are preserved for future generations. The Conservation Reserve Program, for example, not only protects marginal and fragile lands, but provides habitat to pheasants which contribute more than $200 million to South Dakota's economy from hunting," he says. "Safety net and conservation programs are critical to South Dakota agriculture. I will be fighting for both of these as drafting the 2012 Farm Bill unfolds."