After months of debate and hundreds of amendments, the U.S. House passed a Farm Bill this week. This legislation, which I supported, is anticipated to move to a conference committee so differences between the Senate and House versions can be worked out.

This process hasn’t been easy, but getting a five-year Farm Bill passed and signed into law has been a top priority for me since I came to Congress. Although passage of this legislation is a key step, we still have a long way to go to get a Farm Bill to the president’s desk and signed into law.

Separating out the nutrition title from the Farm Bill is not ideal and certainly wasn’t the path I would have chosen, but at the end of the day, we need to get a Farm Bill into conference with the Senate. I was proud of the bipartisan bill we passed out of the Agriculture Committee in April. It was unfortunate that many members were unable to put people before politics and pass that bill when we had the opportunity last month.

However, the legislation we passed this week includes important provisions for the agriculture community in South Dakota. The House has now reauthorized livestock disaster assistance programs, included important sodsaver protections which encourage good land stewardship, passed measures to help combat the pine beetle in the Black Hills, and established a permanent Office of Tribal Relations within the United States Department of Agriculture.

This bill repeals direct payments to farmers and stops payments to those who no longer farm. In fact, traditional farm policy funding was cut by 36 percent, the biggest reduction in Farm Bill history. Additionally, the bill makes important and necessary reforms to the crop insurance program, which is vital to the South Dakota agriculture community. These reforms make sure that farmers have skin in the game while providing a safety net.

A rigorous debate on the nutrition title, which includes the food stamp program, lies ahead for the House. Traditionally, the nutrition title accounts for approximately 80 percent of the Farm Bill funding. Democrats believe the Agriculture Committee proposal’s reforms went too far, while some Republicans believed it didn’t go far enough. We need to ensure that the nutrition title is done in a way that helps those most in need and is accountable to taxpayers.

It’s time to move forward. It’s time to ensure we have sound policy that provides a safety net and certainty for our agriculture community. Decades ago, we decided it was important for us to grow our own food in this country and passage of this bill brings us closer to policy to ensure that continues to happen.

I look forward to receiving your feedback as the Farm Bill process continues. I hope you’ll take the time to give my office a call to share your thoughts, comments and concerns.

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