Families across South Dakota have begun to take down Christmas trees and kids are getting ready to start a new semester at school. It’s hard to believe another holiday season has come and gone, but as we prepare to ring in the New Year, it’s a good opportunity to pause and reflect upon the past year and to set goals for the next.

I continue to feel blessed and honored to serve the people of South Dakota every day. Although the struggles and challenges our country faces often weigh heavily on my mind, I am optimistic that 2013 will bring positive change. I remain committed to getting a Farm Bill passed so that our agriculture community can plan for next year’s crops and will also work to provide additional certainty and stability to our economy and fiscal future.

But as we look at what’s to come, it is also good to reflect on what we’ve accomplished. For the first time since World War II, the House has voted to cut discretionary spending for two years in a row. I also voted to support a Balanced Budget Amendment. With a national debt of over $16 trillion, the House has worked diligently to prioritize our hard-earned taxpayer dollars. I am also proud of the numerous issues that South Dakotans were able to bring to the attention of the federal government this past year.

Just over a year ago, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs released a proposal to close the VA facility in Hot Springs. After visits with community members and the veterans that use the facility, I knew that this proposal wasn’t good for South Dakota. I partnered with the rest of the South Dakota delegation to put pressure on the VA. Recently, VA Secretary Shinseki answered a long overdue request and agreed to meet with the Save the VA group in Washington, D.C. I will continue to monitor this situation and will work to ensure that these veterans and the Hot Springs community receive the answers they deserve.

As a South Dakota community, we have also put the U.S. Department of Agriculture on notice in regard to school lunch regulations. I traveled across the state to meet with students, parents, food service personnel and administrators about how these strict regulations were affecting their school lunch program. Everywhere I went, I heard one thing loud and clear: there must be more flexibility in the school lunch program. I am proud that my pressure on USDA has helped result in increased flexibility, but that flexibility is only for this year. I will continue to work together with school districts here in South Dakota and with the USDA to achieve long-term flexibility.

These are just two of many issues where South Dakotans helped me make a difference in 2012. As South Dakota’s lone representative, it is my responsibility to make sure that South Dakota’s voice is heard in Congress so I would like to encourage you to keep in close contact with me as we tackle another year of legislation. Make sure to visit my website (https://noem.house.gov) and follow me on Facebook and Twitter to let me know your thoughts, comments and suggestions as we move forward into 2013. From my family to yours, I’d like to wish all South Dakotans a very Happy New Year!

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