South Dakota ag round table provides input on nation's next Farm Bill

Dominik Dausch
Farm Forum
Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., left and Rep. Dusty Johnson, right, listen to South Dakota Corn President Scott Stahl during an agriculture round table at his McCook County farm Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Stahl was one of many ag leaders at the discussion to ask the policy makers to ensure crop insurance funding, which provides a safety net for producers in the event of natural disasters, to remain untouched when the next Farm Bill is drafted.

BRIDGEWATER — Rep. Dusty Johnson, along with Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., met with South Dakota's agriculture leaders Tuesday to gather input ahead of the 2023 Farm Bill, a recurring omnibus law that addresses food and ag issues and establishes funding for related programs.

The round table discussion, which was held at the Stahl Farm, circulated primarily around ways to tweak the 2018 Farm Bill, which was written into law by the Trump administration. Most indicated they were fine with the bill, but would like to see some additions made to the legislation to accommodate for modern issues.

Jordan Scott, president of the South Dakota Soybean Association, asked Johnson and Thompson, who are both House Agriculture Committee members, to include incentives for keeping ag trade within the U.S.

"After going through the trade war, we learned a lot about diversifying our trades, including not sending our crops to China," Scott said at the round table.

The Farm Bill also includes a number of sustainability programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, which some round table members indicated should remain voluntary.

"We want to make sure we're not just going to every South Dakota producer and saying 'You know what? No-till is the right thing to do, so none of you can till your land,'" Johnson said. "I think we want policies that are nuanced. We want policies that respect the knowledge of the producer and give them an opportunity to make the right decision for their operation."

Craig Andersen, president of South Dakota Pork Producers Council, said there were programs either omitted or underfunded within the previous Farm Bill that he would like to see restored next year, including programs for seasonal labor and opportunities for youth to get involved in ag.

Most round table members also asked the congressmen to do no harm to crop insurance — a risk management tool that offers a safety net for farmers hurt by drought, natural disasters and other phenomena that impact crop yield — in the next Farm Bill.

South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal asked for increased spending on agriculture research. He told Farm Forum this was not a "sexy" topic, but he emphasized that funding ag science is vital to keeping the U.S. a top player in the sector into the 21st century.

This graph shows the rise in agricultural research and development public spending in the U.S. between 1970 and 2020. Spending peaked at nearly $8 billion in 2002 before dropping to just about $5 billion in 2020, which is about as much as what the U.S. spent in 1970.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. public spending in ag research and development in 2020 dropped to just over two-thirds of its peak in 2002, which is about equal to R&D spending in 1970.

The 2018 Farm Bill expires this September. Johnson expects the next Farm Bill to be signed by the end of next year.

Dominik Dausch is the agriculture and environment reporter for the Argus Leader and editor of Farm Forum. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @DomDNP and send news tips to ddausch@gannett.com.