“I stand with the farmer,” Tim said during the Dakotafest Congressional Forum in Mitchell on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
A packed house of around 200 people listened intently as Tim led the discussion during the 90-minute forum, sponsored by the South Dakota Farm Bureau and moderated by Zippy Duvall, a Georgia farmer who is the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Republican Dusty Johnson, a Mitchell resident, Libertarian George Hendrickson of Sioux Falls and independent Ron Wieczorek of Mount Vernon also took part in the opening forum of the campaign.
Tim stressed his years of working for farmers, ranchers and rural residents.
“I was one of those who fought to save the family farm in the 1980s Farm Crisis,” he said.”Farmers, ranchers, small business owners … these are the people I stood and fought for.”
He said during his career as a small-town lawyer, he won a wetlands case, stood up to big corporations that tried to bully South Dakotans, battled insurance companies to ensure his clients got a fair deal and dealt with rental agreements to make sure the law was followed.
Tim also decried the trade war launched by tariffs imposed this spring. He sounded an alarm on them in April during a speech in Mitchell, calling on South Dakota’s congressional delegation to work to reverse the tariffs, an idea so bad that President Trump’s chief economic adviser resigned when they were imposed.
Sen. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem did not act, and farmers saw commodity prices, already low for the past several years, further reduced. Congress must take back the power it has ceded to the president to handle international trade, Tim said.
The best way to fight a war, including a trade war, is with a broad international coalition the doesn’t allow trade violators like China to target one segment of one nations economy like our agriculture economy.
The idea of offering farmers and ranchers $12 billion to ease their losses is merely “hush money,” he said. It won’t serve to reopen trade agreements and routes that took 25 years to establish.
When farmers sit across from their bankers in the spring, they will face the harsh reality of the damage done by these tariffs, he said.
Tim also spoke of the two Farm Bills that have been debated in Congress. The House bill is a deeply partisan document that provides enormous loopholes for the wealthy. It barely passed, while the Senate version is more reasonable and was approved by an 86-11 vote.
Serious reform is needed, Tim said.
Tim said the House bill, if it becomes law, will hasten the decline of rural America and main streets while setting back conservation efforts.
He said this bill — and Johnson’s support of it - is a symptom of much that is wrong with Congress, showing the kind of laws that are passed when Congress is controlled as it now is by Wall Street and other special interests.
The wealthy already receive 73 percent of money from farm programs and 83 percent of the money provided by crop insurance. But they want still more, he said.
“It’s morally wrong, it’s reckless financially,” Tim said.
He also called for a reduction in regulation that over-reached and did not provide intelligent, reasonable solutions. It’s all too human to create more rules than are needed, Tim said.
But he said not all regulations are bad. One way to encourage farmers is to offer incentives, not by penalizing them.
He also expressed support for broadband, saying it has been great for rural areas, allowing people to live in the small towns and rural areas they love and work remotely. It also allows telemedicine to serve people in areas without adequate medical services.
We need to boost the family farmer and aid young farmers who want to get started. Conservation programs also deserve support, and Tim said he favored increasing the conservation reserve program (CRP) from 24 million acres to 31 million as well as promoting the use of buffer strips to reduce runoff.
We have been placed on this earth to be caretakers of it and to pass it on to the next generation in at least as good shape as we got it, he said.
Tim said it was sadly obvious the H-2A temporary farm worker program is a failure. Temporary visas are not the answer, he said, differing from Johnson’s response.
Tim said one answer to the workforce shortage is to lift up the 10 million to 12 million Americans not working or even seeking employment. He said people such as these came before him in the more than decade he served as a circuit court judge.
Tim said America must focus on treating people suffering from mental illness and addiction.
“We can’t push the problem down the road again,” he said, noting it was not what people had ever heard at a political event before.
Tim repeated what he has been saying since he launched his campaign in July 2017: Fundamental reform and change is needed in Congress and across all levels of government.
“Washington is broken. Both parties are failing us,” he said. “I think it’s time for change in Washington.”
He reiterated his opposition to the congressional dues system, and pointed out he favored term limits for both senators and representatives, while Johnson has only called for term limits in the House.
Tim said the goal was to “light a fire” under members of Congress to get them to do the work of the people and then go home. Prohibiting them from raising money while in session is another needed reform. He repeated his call for new congressional leadership in both parties.
Tim said South Dakota’s next congressman must help lead an effort to return the people to power and get rid of the special interests who control Congress with contributions to candidates and elected officials.
“You can’t serve two masters,” he said several times in the forum, drawing applause from the audience.
Tim said Johnson was not his target. Despite some spirited exchanges, they get along fine, he said.
“My opponent is the special interests and big party bosses in Washington,” he said.
Tim said he wants to represent South Dakota in Congress, not the special interests who wrap their tentacles around elected officials and control them from the wings.
“I ask you to give me that opportunity to be your voice there,” he said.