The 2018 farm bill is one step closer to the president’s desk after the Senate passed its version of the farm bill at the end of June by an overwhelming vote of 86-11. These days, it’s not easy to pass a bill with such broad bipartisan support, but I think the strong vote is not only a testament to the strength of the bill itself, but also shows that Congress recognizes the importance of getting a new farm bill signed into law before the current bill expires this fall.
The kind of certainty and clarity that only a new farm bill can provide is critical to farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. The Senate bill isn’t perfect – no bill is – but it goes a long way toward helping the agriculture community in our state and around the country. We still have some work ahead of us, but I intend to keep pressure on my colleagues, as I’ve been doing since I started introducing my farm bill proposals back in March 2017.
Of the numerous proposals to reform and strengthen the farm bill that I’ve laid over the last 19 months, which have covered nearly every title of the overall farm bill, one dozen of them were adopted by my Senate colleagues. In terms of legislating, that’s a strong batting average, and I have South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers to thank for their suggestions, advice, and support throughout this process.
Several of my proposals were included in the bill before it even made it to the Senate floor. For example, my Soil Health and Income Protection program, which would create a new voluntary income protection program for farmers and serve as a short-term alternative to the popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), was in the base bill. At the committee markup, my colleagues adopted my Improved Soil Moisture and Precipitation Monitoring Act, which will make the U.S. Drought Monitor a better, stronger tool for all who rely on it. And several more proposals, including my provision to allow greater haying and grazing flexibility on CRP acres, were unanimously approved on the Senate floor.
Again, and I can’t say it enough, if it wasn’t for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers, who know far better than anyone else what’s needed to strengthen agriculture policy, we wouldn’t have had this kind of success.
One of those ranchers is Jodie Anderson, the executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. Of the Senate farm bill, she said, “South Dakota beef producers rely on the conservation and disaster tools provided in the farm bill, and we thank Sen. Thune for his diligence in ensuring the farm bill is finished on time to provide the certainty our producers need to help feed the world.”
Scott VanderWal, the president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, said, “It’s critical for Congress to pass a strong farm bill that puts the priorities of South Dakota agriculture at the top of the list. Thanks to Sen. Thune’s leadership, the Senate bill addresses many of those priorities …”
The bill that the Senate just approved is the fourth farm bill I’ve helped write during my time serving the people of South Dakota in Congress. While we’ve still got some work to do before we can hang up the reins and start looking toward the 2023 farm bill, I’m optimistic about what lies ahead.