Rep. Noem discusses Farm Bill at Black Hills Stock Show

Farm Forum

RAPID CITY – Livestock disaster and other vital programs for South Dakota agricultural producers are in jeopardy because of the lack of a long-term farm bill. That’s according to South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem who spoke to a crowd of about 100 people Saturday at the Rapid City Civic Center during the annual Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo. The event was hosted by South Dakota Farmers Union and the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. The space was donated by the Sutton Rodeo Company.

Rather than the standard five-year farm bill, Congress passed an extension of the 2008 farm-support legislation as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal early in 2013.

“It’s a short-term extension and it didn’t have any of the reforms in it that we needed and that we worked so hard on in committee,” Noem said. “It was the current farm bill extended for one more year while we hopefully come up with a new farm bill that works better for South Dakotans.”

Livestock disaster programs expired a year before the 2008 farm bill’s expiration last September, which was particularly stressful for South Dakota producers because of severe drought.

“Throughout 2012 when our dams were running dry and our cattle were dying off with toxic water and feed costs were going through the roof, we didn’t have any livestock disaster programs,” Noem said. “I talked a lot in Congress and worked very hard to get those programs put into the new five-year bill that we were working on, and trying to reauthorize, but also retroactively cover 2012.”

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill last summer. Shortly after, the House Agriculture Committee, which Noem is a member of, passed its version of the bill. Both included the livestock disaster protections. “The problem was that that bill never became law,” Noem said. The legislation was stalled in the House, and was never allowed to come up for a vote.

Noem said the livestock disaster programs were included in the farm bill extension, which she said shows that lawmakers “recognized that we needed disaster programs for livestock.” But, Noem said, the programs included in the extension don’t include any mandatory funding.

“When the (fiscal cliff) bill came out of the Senate they authorized (livestock disaster programs), but they didn’t put any money into it,” Noem said. “You know as well as I do that doesn’t do us any good. One of the challenges is even though we’ve got an extension in place and we know what we’re doing on the commodity side, and we know that we’ve got crop insurance, for our ranchers out there, they still need the funding to make sure that those disaster programs are really going to bring the relief that we need.”

Noem says her priority is to let other lawmakers in Washington know that disaster programs are vital to South Dakota farmers and ranchers because of the state’s extreme weather conditions.

“We have droughts, sometimes we get a lot of snow and a lot of cold weather that can wipe out a calf crop pretty quick and those disaster programs protect us through those hard years and that’s why it’s so important that we not only get them authorized but we get them funded,” she said.

“We’re grateful for Rep. Noem’s work on the House Agriculture Committee in trying to get livestock disaster programs and other supports included in a long-term farm bill,” said South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Director Mike Traxinger. “We’re focused on getting a five-year farm bill passed as soon as we can and we look forward to continuing to work with the congresswoman on the issues that are so important to South Dakota agricultural producers.”

Noem also discussed estate tax changes that were made permanent by the fiscal cliff deal. The estate tax was set to include only a $1 million exemption and tax any estate above that at 55 percent. The bill raised the exemption to $5 million at a tax rate of 40 percent and made it permanent. Rep. Noem also touched on federal spending, the strides the government has made with international trade agreements and other issues during the hour-long meeting.