By Rep. Kristi Noem
When I was young, my dad put us kids to work on the family farm. We were often out of bed before dawn, heaving bales, caring for cattle and working in the field. We also learned how to drive tractors, fix machinery and put in long days. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, we were learning about a profession that’s not only important to our family, but a profession that provides food for families, our country and the world.
South Dakota’s agriculture industry helps provide the backbone and foundation for the values that make our state great. Our producers work hard to care for our state’s number one industry and they also teach their kids how to care for the land and livestock so that, someday, future generations can take over the family operation.
This week, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill with bipartisan support. South Dakota producers deserve the long-term certainty that comes with the passage of a five-year Farm Bill and that’s why I worked to make sure policies important to our state were included in the bill.
The House Agriculture Committee’s new Farm Bill will save nearly $40 billion through the elimination of direct payments, consolidation of conservation programs and the implementation of the first reforms to the food stamp program since 1996. It’s important to examine the food stamp program and close loopholes in order to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse so we can keep the integrity of the program intact and ensure assistance goes to those who need it most. I believe we need to hold the federal government accountable to the taxpayers, and this bill is a step in the right direction.
My position on the House Agriculture Committee gave me the opportunity to help mold this bill and make sure policies important to South Dakota were included. I worked to include livestock disaster assistance, forestry provisions to help fight the pine beetle in the Black Hills, conservation and sodsaver protections, and the establishment of a permanent Tribal Relations office in the Department of Agriculture. I was also able to speak up on behalf of the farmers and ranchers who were affected by the Pautre Fire in northwestern South Dakota and make sure we included language to direct the Forest Service to assist landowners through the claims process.
I’m hopeful that we will be able to get the Farm Bill to the House floor quickly and work out the differences between the House and Senate bills before the end of the summer. Agriculture is such an important part of our national security. The moment we stop growing our own food is the moment we let another country control us. I will continue to fight to get a Farm Bill passed that is good for South Dakota and our nation.