US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Defending South Dakota’s Farmers and Ranchers

Defending South Dakota’s Farmers and Ranchers
By Sen. John Thune

It’s obvious to most folks who live and work in South Dakota, but agriculture is our state’s lifeblood. As a farm-state senator who proudly serves on the Agriculture Committee and Finance Committee, which plays a key role in U.S. trade policy, defending and supporting the agriculture community will always be one of my top priorities in the U.S. Senate.

Farming and ranching is hard enough as it is. Producers often deal with the unpredictability of Great Plains weather, unforeseen transportation and logistical issues, and government red tape, which can make selling products harder than it needs to be. Washington, D.C., shouldn’t make their line of work more difficult by doing things like shrinking market access around the world. Unfortunately, though, I believe current U.S. trade policies are doing just that.

I appreciate that the president is trying to correct longstanding and unfair trade practices with countries around the world – an effort that I strongly support – and I want to give him enough room to negotiate trade deals that open new markets for U.S. producers. New or improved trade deals would help grow the agriculture economy and be a positive development for producers who continue to face low commodity prices today.

I’m worried, though, that the U.S. agriculture community is facing unintended, damaging effects from the current direction the administration has taken on trade and tariffs, however well-intentioned they might be. In particular, I’m concerned about the retaliatory action we’re seeing from other countries that have quickly identified agriculture as an easy target in a trade war. I’m also concerned about the loss of market share over the long term, from which the negative effects would outlast the immediate volatility we’re seeing in today’s commodity market.

My message to the president throughout this process has been consistent and unequivocal: Agriculture must be a priority in negotiating good trade deals. And while he has latitude to negotiate, Congress has constitutional responsibilities in this process, too.

For the last seven-plus months, I’ve been holding the administration’s feet to the fire on trade. In February, and again in April, I met face-to-face with the president to discuss trade policy and the potential adverse effects that a trade war could have on South Dakota. In January, multiple times in May, and as recently as this month, I reinforced that message through letters to the president and members of his administration urging them to take more effective steps on trade. In March, April, and June, in front of multiple Senate committees, I held members of the president’s team, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, accountable for the administration’s trade policies.

Most importantly, I’ve been meeting with and listening to South Dakota’s farmers, ranchers, and other business owners across the state – the very people who are affected by the retaliatory tariffs we are unfortunately starting to see hit home. For example, South Dakota Soybean producers, who rely heavily on exports, report that they could potentially lose hundreds of millions of dollars if current price levels do not improve by harvest time. In the meantime, I will continue to keep pressure on the administration to protect agriculture products from all existing and future tariffs.

While there’s no silver bullet when it comes to agriculture policy, or trade policy for that matter, there’s always more we can do. That’s why, in addition to my effort to urge the administration to pursue more effective trade policies, I’ve spent the last year and a half drafting roughly 40 legislative proposals to help farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. One dozen of them were included in the Senate farm bill.

Aside from good weather, which only Mother Nature can control, certainty is a farmer’s best friend – something we can work toward achieving through positive federal policies on trade and agriculture, and I’m confident we can get there together.

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US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Economy is Improving, but Trade Instability Must be Addressed

Economy is Improving, but Trade Instability Must be Addressed
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

Across the country, Americans are experiencing the benefits that come from a healthy, growing economy. In just the month of June, 213,000 new jobs were created and more than 600,000 people re-entered the work force. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, nearly 1.3 million jobs have been created. This growth is due in large part to policies enacted by the current Congress and the Trump Administration.

In addition to strong job numbers, retail sales have increased for the fifth consecutive month. Consumers feel confident in the economy once again and because they are paying less to the government in taxes, they are free to spend their hard-earned dollars how they see fit. Their spending provides a boost to businesses, who are then able to hire more workers to meet demand and pay their employees higher wages. This is a win-win-win for consumers, American businesses and employees.

Congress and the White House have also been able to work together on reforms to the Dodd-Frank Act, which has saddled our financial institutions with burdensome regulations and hindered their ability to serve their customers. Earlier this year, the president signed into law the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which included a number of provisions that I offered. This law provides relief to smaller, community banks and credit unions that had no part in the financial crisis but were subject to the same regulations after the fact that were put in place to keep big banks in check. When South Dakota’s banks and credit unions don’t have to spend so much on compliance costs, they can offer more services to customers and support businesses in their communities, which helps our economy flourish.

I serve on the Senate Banking Committee, which recently held a hearing to receive an economic update from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He reported that Americans are optimistic about the state of our economy and about finding a good-paying job. I appreciated our discussion about the positive impact the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as well as the reduction of burdensome regulations, is having on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate this year. Like Chairman Powell, I believe we have a very good opportunity for continued GDP growth. However, I shared with him my concern that trade instability—especially for the ag industry—will stifle our ability to reach our full economic potential. Without strong trading deals, I fear we may begin to lose some of the gains we’ve made in growing our economy.

It is up to the White House to finalize trade deals with our partners in Canada and Mexico, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries, as soon as possible. Retaliatory tariffs from China on South Dakota products like corn, wheat and soybeans has cost producers in our state more than $810 million in value just since March 1. With the farm economy down more than 50 percent in South Dakota over the past five years, we need stability in our commodity prices and we need strong trade deals in place—right now.

We’ll continue working to improve the economy for all Americans, and that means pushing for fair, strong trade deals. We are pleased to see that businesses are flourishing and workers are making more money, but we can’t let trade instability become an obstacle on our way to record-high economic growth.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Fighting for Farmers

Fighting for Farmers
By Rep. Kristi Noem

It’s been a tough few years for agriculture. Between a drought, hail, and low prices, net farm income has been cut in half the last four years.

The Farm Bill was designed to provide a safety net for our food supply during stretches like this. In 2014, we approved a five-year Farm Bill, which offered strong crop insurance and livestock disaster programs for producers. That legislation is now up for renewal, which we’re making steady progress on.

The House’s updated Farm Bill incorporates reforms I helped write to strengthen commodity programs. It also increases CRP acreage, updates the wetland determination process, and strengthens dairy policy. I’ve detailed many of these changes at noem.house.gov/FarmBill.

Because the Senate passed a separate version, we’re in the process of merging the two documents into a final proposal, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to wrap up negotiations quickly.

The Farm Bill, however, is just one aspect of agriculture policy that we’re closely monitoring. For years, China has exploited the American people, and they need to be held accountable for that. But in recent months, farmers and ranchers have been forced to bear the burden of retaliatory tariffs.

In July, I invited Scott VanderWal, a Volga-area farmer and president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, to testify before Congress about the impact of China’s trade and tariff threats. He explained: “We understand other countries, particularly China, have not played fairly, and we respect President Trump’s desire to remedy those situations. The problem is, those countries know just where to punch us back in a dispute by targeting our agriculture products. Through no fault of our own, and unintentionally, our industry ends up being used for leverage.”

I share these concerns and have personally expressed them to top administration officials and President Trump himself. In addition to phone calls and meetings, I wrote to President Trump this spring, warning that “All our hard-won gains in Farm Country are at serious risk of being wiped away because China is threatening retaliation against American farmers.”

Especially given the national security risks that would come if another country controls our food supply, the administration must help provide a strong safety net for America’s producers in the face of China’s retaliatory actions. Along with Senators Rounds and Thune, I urged President Trump in July to make U.S. agriculture exports a priority with our trading partners around the world and explained how recent market uncertainty has already cost South Dakota producers hundreds of millions of dollars. Farmers and ranchers simply can’t afford to be further entangled in global trade disputes.

While there were more than 200 rural congressional districts 50 years ago, just over 30 remain. There’s no doubt that creates a disconnect in Congress. So few understand that most producers take a loan out each year, bury that money in the ground in the form of seed and fertilizer, and hope – not only for a good yield – but for the right market conditions at the right time. It’s a tough business. But as a lifelong farmer and rancher, I get why folks do it and why we must fight for trade and agriculture policies that protect the safest, most reliable, and most abundant food supply in the world.

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Promises Kept

Promises Kept
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

We had a lot of good news to share this week, all related to South Dakota’s outstanding financial condition. On Monday, we announced the close of the fiscal year with a surplus. On Tuesday, we got word that S&P is maintaining our AAA status. Then we learned on Wednesday that our Bureau of Finance and Management is being nationally recognized for its annual financial report.

The state’s finances have always been a top priority for me. When I campaigned for this job in 2010, it was the one thing I heard about wherever I went. We were coming out of the recession and, at the time, there was much attention on the federal deficit and the budget problems states faced nationwide. With stimulus dollars running out, South Dakota needed to get its financial house in order. As I visited communities throughout the state, I promised voters we would structurally balance our state budget.

Eight years later, I am proud to say we have kept that promise. South Dakota has achieved structural balance every single year, as well as a surplus for the last seven consecutive years. Most recently, on the last day of June, we closed Fiscal Year 2018 with a $16.9 million surplus. We remained in the black with state agencies spending 0.67 percent less than appropriated and revenues exceeding estimates by 0.38 percent.

Achieving structural balance is not easy. We have had to adjust our revenue projections during the past few legislative sessions because of a sluggish ag economy. We have also faced some uncertainty on the spending side as well, particularly with our state employee health plan and Medicaid enrollment costs, which can vary greatly from year to year. And I’ll never forget the difficult days of the 2011 Legislative Session when we had to make cuts.

But by adhering to conservative budget practices, the Bureau of Finance and Management and the Legislature have responsibly managed our money each year. Instead of adopting rosy projections and employing budget gimmicks to justify overspending, South Dakota is acting responsibly. We don’t spend money we don’t have, we keep our budget structurally balanced and we seize opportunities to spend in the short-term where it can lead to savings.

Judging by this week’s news alone, I’d say these practices are paying dividends.

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Special Minnehaha GOP preview of Dinesh D’Sousa’s new film: Death of a Nation!

From my mailbox:

Get tickets for a limited seating pre-Release showing of Dinesh D’Sousa’s new film: Death of a Nation!

The film is a thought-provoking defense of conservatism and the Republican Party against the Left’s accusations of fascism and racism, particularly exploring the history of fascism and socialism and how that has affected American politics.

What is the true definition of fascism and what political figures or groups are actually falling prey to it? Death of a Nation seeks to make Americans informed citizens so that they can carry the nation from the brink of chaos to the heights of freedom.

Be one of the first to see this film before it’s nationwide release on August 3.

Get tickets here

Paid for by the Minnehaha County Republican Party

Despite Dems including income tax in their platform, Sutton claims to oppose it. Who should we believe?

In the face of conflicting messages on a state income tax from the Democrat Party, are we sure who to believe?

During their failed convention on June 16th, the South Dakota Democrat party passed a campaign platform for 2018 setting forth their goals and beliefs. And in it, they expressly stated that “The South Dakota Democratic Party supports…A tax system which taxes all income levels fairly as allowed by the South Dakota State Constitution.

They hardly could have stated it more plainly that South Dakota Democrats want a state income tax.  It’s a foundational value for them. So much so, they stated it in their party platform.

Yet, in an interview on KELO Radio yesterday, Democrats’ candidate for Governor is backpedaling on that issue as quickly as he can:

Todd Epp for KELO: So, what do you think about a state income tax?

Sutton: Uh, I’m opposed. To a state income tax.

Todd Epp for KELO: Why is that? Why should we not tax people with money?

Sutton: I think what I’ve heard from folks in South Dakota that’s important to them is to make sure that ‘we are attracting  more people here. And attracting businesses here. Ah, we have a very good welcoming business community and culture here in South Dakota. I think we want to keep it that way.

Listen to it here – KELO Radio Interview with Billie Sutton (Approx 6:03)

South Dakota continually ranks well nationally for our business climate. That’s because of Republican stewardship of our economy, most notably WITHOUT A STATE INCOME TAX.  Yet, from South Dakota Democrats, we get mixed messages.

The left hand of the Democrat Party states in their platform that they want a state income tax. The right hand of the Democrat party (And Sutton is trying to run as far-right as a Democrat can) is claiming he’s just like a Republican on the state income tax issue as he runs for Governor.

Who can you believe?

If you have to try to figure it out, you might be better off voting for the Republicans who have kept South Dakota free of an onerous state income tax since the last time we had a Democrat as Governor.

I think they forgot about Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and a few other things. When the perpetually outraged give up on trying to explain why they’re mad.

The perpetually outraged Indivisible Rapid City people are outraged again.  When your tagline is “Working to empower all citizens to find their voice in rapid city so we can help stop President Trump,” you get a flavor of what Indivisible RC’s focus is.

I’ve been forwarded a copy of an e-mail that went out from their partner group “Democracy in Action,”  announcing Indivisible Rapid City’s outrage/protest for the day:

Dear DIA members:

Because of concern raised by the President’s Nato and Helsinki behaviors this past week, Indivisible Rapid City has organized a rally to bring people out on Friday night.  The event organizers wrote that the president’s actions and words clearly show that he is not fulfilling his oath to, “…faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Our republican controlled congress is also failing to uphold their oath to, “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

This has led us to what is likely the most significant crisis our democracy has ever faced. Please join us in a demonstration demanding that our democracy be protected from the domestic enemies that have let a foreign enemy to be the puppeteer controlling two of our three branches of government.

We will have some signs to share but we do encourage people to bring their own as well. Please remember to keep the signs family friendly. Should we have counter protesters please remember that they are exercising their First Amendment rights just as we are and do not engage with them.”

DEFENDING OUR DEMOCRACY
FRIDAY JULY 20 7 PM
MEMORIAL PARK, CORNER OF 5TH AND OMAHA

So, the most significant crisis our democracy has ever faced wasn’t the Civil War. It wasn’t Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War or even 9/11.

It’s a vague claim about President Trump, Nato, Helsinki, and the legislative branch not… not doing something.  I’m not sure what they’re supposed to do, because that’s pretty vague in their e-mail blast as well, but it has something to do with a foreign enemy.

That’s the problem with being perpetually outraged.  It has something to do with President Trump, Indivisible Rapid City is outraged (as usual)…. and they’ll fill in the rest of the details as they go.

Rounds, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cyber Subcommittee, Signs Onto Secure Elections Act

Rounds, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cyber Subcommittee, Signs Onto Secure Elections Act

WASHINGTON– U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee, today signed onto the bipartisan Secure Elections Act. This legislation would strengthen America’s election cybersecurity and protect against the possibility of future foreign interference by streamlining cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies and providing security clearances to state election officials.

“Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Rounds. “Countless Americans have died fighting for our ability to choose our leaders safely, freely and with high confidence in our system. Our adversaries are attacking our election system. While each state should continue to independently take responsibility for its own election process, we can help improve security by taking necessary steps to help safeguard our system and protect our democracy. Our legislation accomplishes this by streamlining information-sharing between intelligence agencies and providing states with additional tools to upgrade election security.”

The Secure Elections Act was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.). In addition to Rounds, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Kamala Harris (D-Cali.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

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SD Farmer Testifies on Tariff Impact before Noem’s Committee

SD Farmer Testifies on Tariff Impact before Noem’s Committee

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today welcomed Scott VanderWal, a Volga-area farmer and president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, to testify on the impact of China’s retaliatory tariffs. Hosted by the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee of which Noem is a member, the hearing gave Congress the opportunity to learn about the effects of tariffs on U.S. agriculture and rural communities.

“For years, China has exploited the American people, and they need to be held accountable for that. But farmers and ranchers can’t afford China’s retaliatory tariffs,” said Noem. “Especially given the national security risks that would come if another country controls our food supply, the administration must help provide a strong safety net for America’s producers. I am grateful to Scott VanderWal for sharing his perspective and hopeful it offered Congress a new perspective on the incredible burden producers are bearing.”

“Since 2014, the American farmer’s income has fallen 52 percent. Now, farmers are dealing with big shifts in the commodity markets because of trade and tariff threats,” saidVanderWal. “We understand other countries, particularly China, have not played fairly, and we respect President Trump’s desire to remedy those situations. The problem is, those countries know just where to punch us back in a dispute by targeting our agriculture products. Through no fault of our own, and unintentionally, our industry ends up being used for leverage. We must get back to the table and get these issues worked out. If we cannot do that, the consequences are dire.”

This spring, Noem led 46 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in a letter to President Trump on the issue. The letter warned: “All our hard-won gains in Farm Country are at serious risk of being wiped away because China is threatening retaliation against American farmers.” In July, she also partnered with Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds inurging the Administration to prioritize ag producers.

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