My family has roots in the South Dakota soil. That’s why family farms are so especially important to me in this campaign, and will be a focus for me in Congress.
I grew up in a series of small towns, but we had numerous relatives and friends who owned and worked on farms. I spent time on them, doing multiple chores, including shoveling manure. That experience will come in handy in Washington, D.C.
When I study agriculture issues, I always look at how it impacts family farmers. They’re the ones who need a friend in Congress, a voice and a vote for them. Believe me, the wealthy have plenty of allies bought and paid for already.
Family farms make up the vast majority of our producers, with 98 percent of our farms family owned, according to the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.
There are 31,800 farms, most of which have been owned by the same family for more than a century. They’re good, productive operations, with an average size of 1,374 acres, and 46,000 people work on them.
They do great work, which each farmer feeding 155 people across the world. They deserve someone in Congress who looks out for them and speaks up on their behalf.
The most glaring example is the multi-billion-dollar Farm Bill that is slowly making its way through Congress. It’s loaded with billions of dollars in subsidies for corporations and the rich, and all efforts to clean those up have been blocked by congressional leaders of both parties.
According to a Politico report, a bipartisan effort that included conservatives and liberals, with input from outside groups, proposed 10 amendments to the Farm Bill that would have capped two commodity support programs — known as Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage — at 110 percent of their projected cost.
Among the ideas was to prohibit farmers with an adjusted gross income of $500,000 or more from being eligible for crop insurance premiums partially paid for by you, the taxpayer.
A means test for commodity and conservation assistance was also proposed. In addition, the subsidies for the sugar industry, which have been in place for more than 80 years and need to be reformed, were proposed for study.
We also need to raise the cap on conservation reserve program (CRP) acres. It’s at 25 million acres now, and it’s worth a look to see if placing more land in CRP would reduce our excess production and boost commodity prices.
They also would likely help the pheasant population in South Dakota, which would be good news for hunters, small towns where people flock to pursue our colorful state bird, and the South Dakota economy.
But the people who run in Congress prevented these interesting ideas from receiving serious consideration.
We need a Farm Bill that’s design to help the farm, not the corporation.
I also favor a restoration of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). We should not allow imported beef and pork to be passed off as a product of the United States of America. They are not.
COOL for beef and pork was lifted in 2016 and that has, once again, benefited Big Ag while putting consumers at risk and penalizing the men and women who produce and market locally grown meat.
We need to restore COOL, and Congress has the ability to do so. I will work on that from the day I am elected.
Another concern is the trade war sparked by tariffs President Trump imposed this year.
That has been a serious mistake. It’s a result of Congress ceding ins authority on international trade. I favor restoring that congressional authority, and it would benefit our farmers and ranchers.
I made that clear in an interview with Black Hills Fox this summer.
“The trade war that is now burgeoning in which our American farmers, and cattleman, and hog producers, are being shoved onto the front lines of against their will. We’ve got a terribly soft farm economy right now. This is making it far worse. In my view, we need a congressman who will be willing to stand up and say that international trade under the Constitution, belongs to Congress under Article 1, Section 8.”
The trade war has lowered commodity prices, especially soybeans. A new report says farmers are once again producing a bumper crop, but many will hold onto it, hoping for better prices.
The problem is there not sufficient storage capabilities. Soybeans will be damaged if left on the ground, making a bad situation even worse. These are some of the byproducts of poor trade policies.
One solution is build more storage facilities, and once again, the tariffs come back to bite us, as steel and aluminum prices have risen sharply with tariffs put in place by longtime trading partners.
We must prepare for difficult days next spring, when farmers seek new contracts for their crops and also talk to bankers about operating loans. Congressmen, like farmers, must consider the long term impact of choices.
I’m also interested in helping younger farmers get started. As the average age of a farmer nears 60, we need to assist the next generation of stewards of our land. They face a daunting challenge with the price of land, livestock and equipment, and I promise to be in their corner.
These are all issues that South Dakota’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives must devote himself to in 2019 and beyond. One way to work on them is being being appointed to the House Agriculture Committee
We don’t have someone on that committee now and that has been a mistake. I will correct that next year.
It’s about planting an idea to work for our farmers and I plan to nurture that into a healthy crop of support for family farms.