It’s Always Ag Appreciation Day in South Dakota
By Sen. John Thune
The Sioux Empire Fair’s Ag Appreciation Day is one of many annual events throughout South Dakota that I try to attend each year. It’s a great event for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the hardworking farmers and ranchers who I’m able to see and personally thank for everything they do to help support our state’s number one industry.
This year’s event was a successful one, as always, where the food and company was far better than my rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” – another annual tradition. A big thanks to Mogen’s Heroes for their musical accompaniment, but let’s just say, I won’t be selling out stadiums any time soon.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year listening to South Dakota’s agriculture community. Things have been tough, which is an understatement, I know. Mother Nature has thrown one thing after another at farmers and ranchers, and it would be hard enough if it were only the weather that had contributed to this year’s difficulties, but it’s not. Producers have been left in the wake of multiple protracted trade disputes that have only compounded the anxiety in farm country during this growing season.
My message to the president and his administration throughout these ongoing trade disputes has been the same message that you’ve relayed to me: We need to successfully conclude these negotiations as soon as possible in order to expand existing markets and open new markets around the world. I believe it’s the best way to create additional opportunities for producers and help ensure they are profitable in 2019 and beyond.
While we’ve seen some recent successes in Japan and the European Union, China remains one of most challenging hurdles to overcome. They’re always playing the long game, and they’re willing to endure economic pain that could only be tolerated by a state-run economy, which they’re using as a weapon in this trade dispute.
Let me be clear: While I strongly support the president’s goal in this fight, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that it come to a successful conclusion as soon as possible, because it’s continuing to take a toll on the agriculture community, and they’re feeling it.
Farmers and ranchers will be the first to tell you that they would much rather receive a check from a satisfied customer than from Uncle Sam. I truly believe most folks who aren’t in the agriculture industry understand that, too, but I also believe they recognize there are times, like the ones we’re facing today, where the agriculture community needs help in the form of a hand up, not a handout.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently in the process of accepting applications for its second round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments, which are intended to help producers who have been affected by the current sluggish agriculture economy, trade uncertainty, and difficult growing season offset some of their losses. MFP sign-ups began in late July and will be open until December 6, 2019, and payments are expected to begin by the end of August.
I’ve fought hard to help ease some of the requirements for folks to qualify for MFP payments, and while several of these efforts have been successful, I will continue to do everything I can to help mitigate the pain. None of these short-term programs will be able to fully replace what these folks have already lost, and they are merely a Band-Aid amid this ongoing trauma, but South Dakotans will always have their back, and for one big reason: the agriculture community has always had theirs.