When You Defend Agriculture, You Defend South Dakota
By Sen. John Thune
In a 1982 radio address to the nation, President Ronald Reagan had a simple yet poignant message for U.S. farmers. He said, “I’ve always thought that when we Americans get up in the morning, when we see bacon, eggs, toast, and milk on our breakfast table, we should give thanks that our farmers are survivors. You are the real miracle workers of the modern world – keepers of an incredible system based on faith, freedom, hard work, productivity, and profit.”
Reagan’s edict to the American people was as true then as it is today: farming and ranching is no easy business. In fact, if you ask most farmers and ranchers today, they’d tell you it’s less of a business and more of a way of life. They’d tell you that you’re born with it in your blood – the willingness to climb out of bed before the sun breaks in the east and, without a complaint or dragging feet, work until Mother Nature turns out the lights in the west.
Farmers and ranchers care about what they do and how they do it nearly as much as they care about their family, friends, and the Lord above who knows there’s a uniqueness about them – a toughness that, despite the hardest times, will never break their faith. These are the people I’m proud to represent in Washington, and they’re why I left it all on the field when it came to writing and passing the 2018 farm bill.
I work on a lot of meaningful issues with my colleagues in Washington, but when it comes to defending South Dakota’s top industry, I take a backseat to no one. I’ve never underestimated or taken for granted what it means to fight for our state’s agriculture community, and I never will.
I introduced my first farm bill proposal in early 2017 and spent more than a year drafting proposal after proposal to help lay the groundwork for the bipartisan farm bill Congress just overwhelmingly approved. Without their help, I can honestly say it would look much different than it does today. And because of their help, it will help provide more of the economic certainty and security they want and need.
The provision I’m proudest to have had included in the bill is the establishment of the Soil Health and Income Protection Program. SHIPP, as it’s known, is a three-to-five-year enrollment alternative to the popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which, while a popular program, locks up enrolled land for a decade or more. This is the first time in the 30-plus year history of CRP that farmers will have the opportunity to enroll in a short-term conserving use program like this one that has these kinds of flexible options.
I wish there was enough time or room on this page to describe all of the big things in the farm bill that will benefit South Dakota, but suffice it to say, the bill contains nearly 20 provisions that have our state’s fingerprints on them – a direct result of the feedback and suggestions I received from farmers and ranchers throughout the state over the last few years.
I can’t think of a better or more succinct way of explaining the government’s role in agriculture than how President Reagan described it, saying it should “act as friend, partner, and promoter of American farmers and their products.” He said, “I want with all my heart to see your burdens lifted, to see farmers who have given so much to America receive the rewards they deserve.” It’s true, and I believe the 2018 farm bill mirrors that timeless perspective.