‘Tis the season for resolutions! 

January 1 is a new beginning, so it’s no surprise that setting New Year’s resolutions has become a holiday tradition for many.  While we all know that commitment to upholding many of these resolutions often fades, Abraham Lincoln reminds us that “your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” 

I join many South Dakotans in being frustrated with the progress made in Washington over the last few years.  But it is a new year, and I am coming to the table with a renewed resolution to succeed.

Toward the end of 2013, Congress gained significant momentum on a number of issues that matter to South Dakota.  That momentum has not been lost.  First and foremost, Farm Bill negotiations continued through the holidays. 

The lead negotiators – Rep. Frank Lucas (a Republican) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (a Democrat) – have come to a consensus on an outline of the reforms they agree can be made in the Farm Bill.  Right before Christmas, they were able to get estimates back to see how much these reforms would cost – or in some cases, save. 

Now, it is a matter of tweaking the bill to make sure all the numbers add up, but we are on track to finish a comprehensive five-year farm bill during the first part of 2014.

We also began to make progress on new sex trafficking legislation.  Sadly, this is an issue South Dakota has seen more of in recent years.  Local law enforcement officers have done a good job of identifying and bringing into custody those who are selling the victims of human trafficking.  Many of the convicts are brought to justice under federal law, as there are harsher penalties – namely, life in prison – for sex trafficking at that level.

To ensure local law enforcement officers have all the tools they need and that there are no gaps in federal law, I’ve been driving the End Sex Trafficking Act in Washington.  This legislation addresses sex trafficking from the demand side by strengthening the federal law when it comes to those who solicit, patronize or obtain the services of a trafficked victim.  As President George W. Bush stated during a Justice Department training on sex trafficking, “We cannot put [human traffickers] out of business until and unless we deal with the problem of demand.”

Additionally, this year, I’ll be working to reform the level of influence the government can wield over our local school lunches.  Under current law, South Dakota schools face significant limitations when it comes to what they can serve our kids.  In fact, the law says that schools can only serve an average of 2 oz. of meat per meal.  That’s just three chicken nuggets for a high school student.

Yes, we all want our kids to be healthier, but we don’t want them to go hungry either.  In mid-December, I introduced a new bill to lift the law’s onerous meat and grain limitations, giving schools more flexibility to decide what they will feed our kids at lunchtime.  Simply put – bureaucrats in Washington shouldn’t be able to dictate what goes on our kids’ plates here in South Dakota.  This is an issue that is gaining momentum and will be a focus of my attention over the next year.

Congress ended 2013 with a refreshing level of cooperation that I hope will be carried on throughout the next year.  And as I prepare to return to Congress, I am determined to again instill in Washington something that President Abraham Lincoln spoke about: a resolution to succeed.

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