Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., met with House and Senate conference committee members Wednesday to begin writing a final draft of the 2013 farm bill.

"Now is the time to finish the farm bill," Noem said in a written statement. "Despite the differences discussed in today’s meeting, it was clear the conferees agree that we must strive for a farm bill that will provide certainty from the field to the fork and the pasture to the plate."

"From a strong crop insurance program to an effective livestock disaster program, South Dakota farmers and ranchers need a reliable safety net to ensure consumers continue to have access to a safe and affordable food supply."

Noem is the first House member from South Dakota to be appointed as a member of the farm bill conference since 1996.

The conference committee will work to merge the farm bills passed by the House and the Senate into one piece of legislation. The conference committee’s negotiated final product, called a conference report, will then need final approval by the full House and Senate before being sent to the president for his signature.

Noem advocated the following four provisions in the House version of the farm bill, all of which were included in some form in the version passed by the House.

• Livestock Disaster Protection Act: Would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program, and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program for the life of the farm bill as well as provide retroactive coverage, since the programs expired in 2011.

• Protect our Prairies Act: Would encourage conservation of native sod and grassland.

• National Forest Emergency Response Act: Would streamline processes to get boots on the ground faster for pine beetle mitigation efforts.

• USDA Office of Tribal Relations: Would permanently establish an Office of Tribal Relations within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help improve communication between USDA and tribal nations.

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