US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Standing Up For South Dakota Producers

Standing Up For South Dakota Producers
By Sen. John Thune 


Agriculture is the lifeblood for many South Dakotans. Farming and ranching isn’t just an occupation, it’s a proud and honest way of life. As a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, standing up for our producers is a top priority.

Cattle producers have faced significant market disruptions in recent years. It strikes me, at least, that while producers struggle to make ends meet, the largest meatpackers in the country have seen record profit margins. Something doesn’t add up. Since the early days of the pandemic, I have urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the four large meatpackers that control more than 80 percent of the beef processing capacity in our country. It’s critically important that producers have a fair and transparent system to market their cattle, and I urge the Justice Department to conclude its work to determine if any improper or anticompetitive activity has occurred. 

Regulatory uncertainty and burdens have also hurt producers. Unfortunately, President Biden is resurrecting President Obama’s 2015 attempt to regulate ditches, prairie potholes, and ephemeral streams. I recently led all Senate Republicans in urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend their rulemaking to redefine the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), specifically “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), until the U.S. Supreme Court completes its consideration of Sackett v. EPA, a case that is expected to have major implications on CWA enforcement. The CWA calls for only “navigable waters” to be regulated – think rivers and streams that connect to larger bodies of water. 

The WOTUS rule would not only be time consuming to have every water feature examined, but it lacks even a drop of common sense. It could also be incredibly expensive should you run afoul of D.C. regulators who are looking to halt every day farming and ranching practices. The Biden administration should freeze its WOTUS rulemaking until the Supreme Court makes its decision, otherwise farmers and ranchers will have even more uncertainty to deal with during the upcoming planting season.

Instead of imposing new, unnecessary regulations, the administration should focus on meaningful measures to address the supply chain crisis. For some time now, I’ve heard reports of ocean carriers unreasonably refusing to transport certain goods – often American agricultural products. My bipartisan bill, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which I introduced this month, is designed to address this problem and create a more level playing field, benefitting South Dakota producers, small businesses, and consumers.

Under my bill, the Federal Maritime Commission is given more authority to respond to unfair ocean carrier practices, while bringing greater efficiency and transparency to a process that leaves many shippers – especially small businesses – frustrated. These improvements will bring long-term positive changes to the maritime supply chain, which I hope will benefit producers by ensuring export markets remain open, fair, and competitive.  

Agriculture is a tough business, and producers are some of the toughest people I know. They have had to endure tremendous challenges over the past few years, from trade disputes to weather to the pandemic. No matter what, I will keep doing everything I can to stand up for the priorities of South Dakota producers.


US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: News You Can Use

News You Can Use
By Sen. John Thune

Local newspapers – radio and T.V. stations too – are often the go-to source for everything from Friday’s football scores to keeping up with the city council. These entities are fundamental to our communities, and they have the best pulse on the news that South Dakotans care about the most. National Newspaper Week is a great opportunity to recognize all of the dedicated people who work hard to deliver trusted news and information to communities throughout South Dakota.

Growing up, the Murdo Coyote and the Mitchell Daily Republic were circulated in my hometown. Reading the daily and weekly newspapers was one of the primary ways my family and others in the neighborhood learned about what was happening in our small town. We didn’t – and obviously couldn’t – rely on smartphones or social media. We trusted what we read from fellow South Dakotans – something I still rely on today, both to get the news and to help me do my job in Washington as effectively as possible.

When I’m on the road visiting towns across the state, I know I can pick up the local paper at the gas station, see what’s going on in the community, and trust what I read. Those front pages live on as time capsules of each community’s history. It’s also neat to see how much of a family enterprise some of these local newspapers are these days.

For many readers, picking up the local paper is more than what the city council voted on the night before. It’s about the daily tick-tock of the community. To this day, I love reading the names of high school athletes setting state records and winning state championships.

When I was a kid, having your name printed in the local paper felt like celebrity status. Speaking from experience, young athletes don’t forget the feeling of knowing their accomplishments are being shared with the entire community or stuck to the kitchen refrigerator with a magnet by a proud parent.

This past year, we also learned about the power of our local newspapers when they provided critical information to folks about various health and safety measures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They, too, were dealing with the realities of the pandemic, including the economic struggle other small businesses across the state faced. In a time when families needed information, South Dakota newspapers were there to provide it.

No newspaper – big or small – is worth its salt without great reporters. Having worked with many of them throughout my time in public service, I can say South Dakota reporters are true professionals. They are out in their communities daily, telling the stories of what it means to be a South Dakotan. No one in a Washington or New York newsroom knows more about what’s important to or happening in South Dakota than those who call South Dakota home.

I am so thankful to our local papers and reporters for their continual commitment to seeing the news as a public service – not a commodity. News isn’t always an easy business, but South Dakotans thank and respect those who help deliver it.


US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: South Dakotans Know Best

South Dakotans Know Best
By Sen. John Thune

In Washington, Democrats are doing everything they can to expand the power of the federal government – incremental steps toward achieving their broader goal of giving Washington, D.C., more power over South Dakota and our way of life. I know that the last thing South Dakotans want are more rules and regulations coming from out-of-touch Washington bureaucrats, and I don’t blame them.

This summer, Democrats held votes on legislation that would put the federal government – instead of states – in charge of our elections. Their so-called “For the People Act” would create a pathway for a massive federal takeover of our electoral systems by undermining state voter ID laws, spending taxpayer dollars on political campaigns, and imposing troubling new burdens on free speech. Fortunately, these votes failed, and I proudly opposed this federal power grab. Let me be clear: there is absolutely zero legitimate reason to have the federal government dictating states’ election policies.

The excuse Democrats are using to bully states and push their partisan federal election legislation is that they think it will strengthen their precarious hold on power and improve their chances of winning future elections. My message to them is that attempting to stack the deck will not work. And South Dakota election officials are doing just fine without having their every move dictated by Washington bureaucrats. South Dakota had the highest number of ballots cast in its history in the 2020 election. If anything, other states could learn a thing or two from the way we run our elections.

Unfortunately, the Democrats’ federal power grab doesn’t stop there. They are attempting to pass legislation that would preempt virtually all state restrictions on abortion. Their so-called Women’s Health Protection Act would eliminate just about any abortion restriction adopted by states across the country, including those in South Dakota. Throughout my time in public service, not once have I seen such a radical, anti-life piece of legislation that would make on-demand abortions part of the federal law.

These are just two examples of a very concerning pattern by Washington Democrats. They continue to assume the federal government can fashion a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem, real or perceived. Instead of focusing on issues like national security and border security – real problems that demand real solutions – they are simply trying to find more ways to give the federal government more power over individuals and states.

The federal government has too much power as it is, and the policies that Democrats are attempting to advance double down on a divisive, government-knows-best approach. It’s disappointing that rather than fulfilling their promise to unify the nation, Democrats continue to pursue a partisan agenda at the expense of states. As a conservative, I’ve always believed in a limited but effective federal government. Government that is closer to those who are governed is more responsive and more accountable. While Democrats clearly disagree, I’ll never stop fighting for the principles of freedom, personal responsibility, and hard work that define what it means to be a South Dakotan.


Thune: Democrats’ Tax-and-Spending Spree Would Have South Dakotans Footing the Bill

Thune: Democrats’ Tax-and-Spending Spree Would Have South Dakotans Footing the Bill

“The consequences of Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree could be devastating – for our economy and for American families.”

Click here or on the picture above to watch the video.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today warned that the cost of the Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending spree would ultimately fall on the backs of hard-working, middle-income families. Thune noted that Democrats continue to be unfazed by their reckless spending proposals and job-killing tax hikes.

Thune Hosts FCC Chairman Pai in Rapid City

Thune Hosts FCC Chairman Pai in Rapid City

RAPID CITY, S.D. — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statement after hosting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai in Rapid City for a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and roundtable discussion with South Dakota telecommunications stakeholders.

“I want to thank Chairman Pai for making the trip to South Dakota to meet with telecommunications stakeholders in our state,” said Thune. “His willingness to learn from and discuss challenges with professionals who understand the complexities of providing high-speed internet access for rural communities, like those throughout South Dakota, shows how serious he is about making improvements to advance rural America. I look forward to working with the chairman as he incorporates the feedback he received today into initiatives that could improve connectivity for people living in every corner of the state, even the most remote areas.”


Dems still short a candidate for the top South Dakota office this election.

I was noticing the other day that (predictably) Libertarian spoiler Kurt Evans announced in a comment section at another blog that he is bowing out from running for US Senate (again. And again).

This race that never got off the ground marked his third race against Senator Thune, and his second time bowing out against the State’s senior Senator, putting Evans as having actually ran once, and then not getting past talking about it the next three times. I’m starting to sense a pattern.

For challengers against Thune, that leaves Mike “Professor Push-ups” Myers who is still thinking about a candidacy, in-between attempts of trying to sound coherent.  I wish him all the luck in the world with that.

Sounding coherent, that is. Not with the candidacy. He had enough trouble with the former during last years’ gubernatorial campaign.

Moving from the Libertarians and Independents to the Democrats, apparently, they’re still smarting from the shellacking they took in 2004 from Thune. They just flat out failed to field a challenger after the popular Thune’s first term of office.

And with just over a year left to go, they’re still strongly and firmly on track to duplicate those same results. They basically have no one.

Maybe I should clarify that a bit – they have no one credible yet. Although, I am hearing rumors of a former state legislative candidate in the Southeast part of the state who has lost for the legislature at least twice announcing at a meeting “If no one wants to do it, I will.”

Somebody has to take one for the team” is not exactly a rousing rallying cry.  But given the state of the Democrat party, it might be the best they can hope for.  But even that is wishful thinking at this point.

The fact remains that Dems are still short a candidate for the top South Dakota office in the 2016 election.  And that does not look like a condition that’s going to be remedied anytime soon.

If at all.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Ellsworth’s Expanded Role in America’s National Security

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressEllsworth’s Expanded Role in America’s National Security
By Sen. John Thune

This year, Ellsworth Air Force Base, located just outside Rapid City, has seen its role in our national security increase dramatically. Early this spring, the Air Force signed off on the completion of an eight-year project to expand the Powder River Training Complex, or PRTC, the airspace in which our B-1B bombers train. Until the expansion, this airspace was only big enough to permit one B-1B bomber to train at a time, which meant that our aircrews had to commute to other airspace to meet their training needs.

With this expansion, the PRTC has quadrupled in size, making it roughly the size of Indiana and spread over four states, including South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Eighty-five percent of our aircrews’ training needs can now be met here in South Dakota, with live-fire exercises taking place elsewhere. This will potentially save Ellsworth $23 million per year and allows our state to host missions from across the country as aircraft come here to utilize this national resource.

This week, we also saw another milestone in the notable history of Ellsworth Air Force Base, as the command structure for the B-1B bombers moved from Air Combat Command to Global Strike Command. This means that all of our nations’ bombers, the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52, will now be under the same command.

The B-1B remains a legacy mission for the Air Force, and the aircraft modernization the fleet is undergoing means the B-1B will continue to be the work horse of our Air Force for years to come. However, as we look to the future, the United States will eventually need a new, highly advanced, long-range bomber to meet our security needs.

The contract for this new bomber, known as the Long Range Strike-Bomber, or LRS-B, should be announced by years’ end, with the new aircraft coming online in the mid-2020s. When that happens, the LRS-B will gradually replace the B-1B and the B-52 bombers. By moving Ellsworth to Global Strike Command, the Air Force is anticipating that transition. Ellsworth’s command structure is now in a place where it can smoothly receive the new bombers once they come online.

According to General Richard Clark, commander of the 8th Air Force, the transition to the new command will be seamless for the men and women stationed at Ellsworth. “They will wear a different patch,” Gen. Clark said recently, “but aside from that it won’t be a significant change.” He went on to say, “in general this is a really great move for the Air Force.”

With the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex and the transition to Global Strike Command, the key role Ellsworth plays in our national defense has been solidified for years to come.


Thune, GOP leadership not interested in shutdown.

From politico, South Dakota’s senior US senator, John Thune, would not appear to be interested in a government shutdown. And Senate GOP leadership just out maneuvered Ted Cruz in preventing it.

“We had to be prepared,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “He’s running for national office. He’s got a different endgame than we do. There are things we have to do here. We’ve got to fund the government every year.”

By moving to quarantine Cruz from the rest of the conference over the past three months, the majority leader demonstrated that he’s learned the lessons of the Cruz-backed government shutdown in 2013 and the Texas senator’s rogue strategy last winter that helped Democrats confirm a raft of judges in the lame duck session. In doing so, McConnell cemented his position atop the Senate GOP, dashing any hopes among House Republicans, or conservative activists, that his future might be in doubt.

Read it all here.

These comments were also echoed by the Senator on MSNBC on September 21st, according to Newsmax:

Shutting down the government is not the answer to stopping Planned Parenthood, Sen. John Thune said Monday, pointing out that President Barack Obama will veto legislation that does away with the organization’s funding.

“I think there’s a better way to do this,” the South Dakota Republican, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “I think we’re going to get an opportunity not only to continue to fund the government, but to put something on the president’s desk that would redirect funding from Planned Parenthood to community centers.”

A government shutdown, Thune continued, would end “badly for our party,” and Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame.

Read it all here.

Does standing firmly against a government shutdown solidify Thune’s position for the fall 2016 election? What do you think?

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressProtecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us
By Sen. John Thune

Recently, the Senate took up a common-sense bill to protect human life, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would protect unborn children who have reached the age of 20 weeks – the age at which unborn children can feel pain – from being killed by abortion. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated in the Senate after just three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for this legislation.

It’s difficult for me to imagine how anyone could oppose this bill. Twenty weeks (about five months) into a pregnancy, the humanity of unborn babies is clearly visible. They have fingers and toes, eyebrows and eyelashes. They suck their thumbs. They yawn and stretch. They move around and make faces. They respond to noises. And they feel pain.

The scientific evidence on this point is incontrovertible: Five months into a pregnancy, the physical structure by which human beings experience pain is in place, and scientists can measure spikes in babies’ stress hormones when the babies are confronted with painful stimuli. In fact, some scientific evidence suggests that babies of this age feel pain even more keenly than adults do, since some of the neural mechanisms that inhibit pain don’t fully develop until after birth.

If there’s one thing all Americans ought to be able to agree on, it’s that unborn babies who feel pain deserve to be protected. Americans are rightly horrified by deliberate cruelty to animals – it is unthinkable that we allow unborn human beings who feel pain to be subjected to late-term abortion procedures that are so brutal it is difficult to even talk about them.

Thanks to advances in medical science, doctors and nurses in this country are saving babies who are born months early. A May 2015 article in the New York Times on advances in the treatment of extremely premature infants reported on one baby who was delivered at 22 weeks and 1 day and weighed 1.1 pounds at delivery, yet today is “a healthy 5-year-old.” Yet in the United States, our laws allow a baby of the very same age to be killed by abortion.

There are only seven countries in the world that allow elective abortion past five months of pregnancy. Among those countries are China, North Korea, and the United States. That’s not the company the United States should be keeping when it comes to protecting human rights.

And the American people agree. Polls show that a strong majority of Americans – including a strong majority of women – support banning elective abortions after five months of pregnancy.

Ultimately, it’s simple: That unborn baby – the one with the fingers and toes, who sucks her thumb and responds to her mother’s voice – that unborn baby is one of us, and as such she deserves to be protected. While I’m disappointed that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to pass the Senate this time, the fight is not over.


US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: President’s Energy Agenda Bad for South Dakota

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressPresident’s Energy Agenda Bad for South Dakota
By Sen. John Thune

South Dakotans frequently share with me their frustrations and concerns with Washington’s overreach into Americans’ lives. Despite the progress the new Senate Republican majority has made on many issues that impact hard-working families and small businesses across the country, the fact remains that Washington continues to be plagued by the failed leadership of the Obama administration.

Every September, we mark an anniversary that has become symbolic of the administration’s obstructionism: the filing of the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This year marks seven years since the permit was first filed. Even though the Obama State Department has reviewed hundreds of thousands of comments and completed five environmental impact statements, all of which found the pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment, the administration has continued to slow-walk an important infrastructure project that would immediately create “shovel-ready” jobs during construction, including 3,000-4,000 direct and indirect jobs in our state alone. The construction and operation of the pipeline would also bring crucial tax dollars to South Dakota municipalities along the route and bolster America’s energy independence.

Legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline was the first bill the GOP-led Senate considered this year. It passed with a strong bipartisan vote of over 60 senators supporting the bill. In February, President Obama sided with the liberal wing of his party and vetoed this legislation that would bring more energy to the United States and more economic growth in South Dakota. This is not the kind of leadership that will get our economy working again.

I recognize that the Keystone XL pipeline is only one project, but the administration’s attitude toward important energy investment has become all too pervasive. On August 3, the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rule against affordable electricity generation. This plan will increase electricity bills for Americans across the country, hurting job growth and families’ pocketbooks as it forces our most reliable and affordable sources of power generation out of operation – all while countries like China and India continue to pollute and exploit a competitive advantage of cheaper energy.

In the coming weeks, the EPA is expected to finalize what is estimated to be the most costly regulations in the agency’s history via a lower smog standard. The proposed range for a lower standard will draw large swaths of the country into nonattainment including areas in South Dakota, subjecting communities to stiff federal penalties, increased business costs, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and lost highway dollars. Even areas in marginal attainment will face steep challenges in attracting new economic development.

These and other regulations are hampering America’s economic recovery and have real-world impacts on South Dakota families and small businesses. Many of our efforts in the Senate to combat these regulations have been thwarted by a president committed to cementing his legacy. Unfortunately for hard-working Americans, the president’s legacy will be one plagued by obstructionism and federal overreach, the consequences of which will have a lasting impact. That is why Senate Republicans have been committed to enacting a pro-growth agenda that would help revive businesses, reduce tax and regulatory burdens, restore American values, and grow the middle class. The president might fight against this progress, but we’ll continue to fight back.