Farmers and ranchers deserve full support, Thune says

(Journal stock photo.)

Whether it’s a natural disaster or an ordinary day, farmers and ranchers are always at the top of my mind. Agriculture is the lifeblood of the South Dakota economy, and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that our farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to help feed our country. I’m fortunate to be a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which gives me an important platform from which to address the needs of South Dakota ag producers.

Right now, a big focus of mine is the 2023 farm bill. I’ve already begun to hold a series of roundtables to hear from South Dakota farmers and ranchers about what they need from the 2023 bill, and I plan to continue introducing proposals that I hope to get included in it.

My Conservation Reserve Program Improvement Act, which I introduced in March, would make CRP grazing a more attractive option by providing cost-share payments for all CRP practices for the establishment of grazing infrastructure, including fencing and water distribution. It would also increase the annual payment limit for CRP, which has not changed since 1985, to help account for inflation and the increase in land value.

I’m also working with colleagues from other agriculture states on legislation based on my conversations with South Dakota farmers and ranchers. I introduced the Agriculture Innovation Act with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN. Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture collects reams of data on conservation practices. The problem is that a lot of this data is often not analyzed and presented in a way that would be useful for producers.

The legislation Sen. Klobuchar and I have introduced would provide for better processing and development of the data USDA collects so farmers and ranchers can evaluate the impact of conservation and other production practices on things like soil health, crop yields, and profitability. Our bill would make it easier for producers to decide what conservation practices to adopt by, among other things, helping identify the ways conservation practices can improve their bottom line.

In addition to farm bill priorities, I’ve been spending a lot of time focused on trade, which has played a large part in America’s economic success for decades. Strong trade policy is critical for American ag producers, who depend on exporting their products around the globe.

I recently led a letter with 23 of my Senate Republican colleagues to the U.S. trade representative and the secretary of agriculture urging them to prioritize increased access to foreign markets for American producers, including—and especially—American ag producers. Unfortunately, the administration has not made market access commitments a priority in its trade agenda, and the administration has failed to pursue any ambitious market-opening initiatives or comprehensive trade agreements.

Another issue I’m committed to addressing is America’s beef labeling system. As South Dakotans know, cattle producers in our state produce some of the highest quality beef in the world. But the current labeling system for beef is unfair to American cattle producers and misleading for consumers. As I have said before, when you see a “product of the USA” label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that. That is why I introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, to require clear and accurate labeling for beef, and I will continue to stand up for mandatory country of origin labeling and South Dakota cattle producers.

Our nation depends on our farmers and ranchers, and I am profoundly grateful for all of the determined men and women who have chosen this way of life and are committed to helping pass it on to future generations.

U.S. Sen. John Thune is a South Dakota Republican and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.