I was proud to lead the House in passing a new Farm Bill earlier this month, clearing a major hurdle as we work to reinforce this critical safety net for producers and bolster food security for our country.

While the Farm Bill is commonsense for South Dakota, it takes quite a feat to push something like this through the House. In 1963, more than 200 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts were defined as rural. Fifty years later, just over 30 districts carried that same distinction. It’s a shift that has dramatically changed the context in which federal policies are debated – a shift that requires rural representatives to fight harder than ever to be heard.

We began holding field hearings and listening sessions more than a year before the September 2018 deadline, a process I was honored to be part of. We’ve also been working to expand support outside of the Agriculture Committee, which helped secure passage on the House floor.

The House-passed Farm Bill, if enacted, would renew much of the 2014 legislation. Jerry Schmitz, who leads the South Dakota Soybean Association, explains the bill maintains “a strong crop insurance program, along with commodity program reform that will assist farm families, especially young farm families.” That’s especially important, given that commodity prices are 40 to 50 percent lower than they were five years ago. 

The legislation also maintains strong livestock disaster programs. “Without these programs,” said Jodie Anderson, Executive Director of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, “our ability to feed the world would be diminished.”

While critical programs are preserved, we did make some tweaks to ensure greater accuracy and accountability.

For instance, during 2014 Farm Bill implementation, the USDA elected to prioritize county yield data from its National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which has proven unreliable in many cases. Using language I authored, the House-passed Farm Bill directs USDA to prioritize crop insurance data instead, which is a more dependable source.

Additionally, we increase CRP acreage to 29 million acres, a priority for many South Dakota outdoorsmen. At the same time, each state’s allotment of CRP acres is based on its historical data, which I previously pressured the USDA to do.

The legislation also includes support for rural broadband and builds on the economic success of tax reform by requiring able-bodied, non-elderly individuals without young children to work or participate in work training for 20 hours per week in order to receive the benefits.

All in all, the Farm Bill “protects producers while respecting the taxpayer dollars we all contribute,” as Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, explained.

As I said before, I was thrilled to see the House come together and pass a strong Farm Bill. Next, the legislation must be debated in the Senate before making it to President Trump’s desk. For many producers, this legislation has provided a necessary safety net during these tougher years. But from a broader perspective, the Farm Bill ensures the American people continue to have access to the world’s safest, most reliable, and most abundant food supply.

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