SDFU president: Noem should have stayed on Ag Committee

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Farm Forum

I was quite surprised when I read quotes made by Representative Kristi Noem in a recent Watertown Public Opinion article where she attempts to justify her move from the House Agriculture Committee to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. She stated, “all of the ag organizations in the state advocated and supported me getting on the Ways and Means Committee.”

I am confused by this comment, because although I knew Noem was making the move, and I understand that for her political career this is a great move for her, as a representative of one of the state’s largest agriculture organizations, I did not and do not support her move because it is not in the best interest of South Dakota’s number one industry of agriculture.

I want to make it clear that South Dakota Farmers Union neither advocated nor encouraged Rep. Noem’s decision to leave South Dakota without a seat on the Ag Committee. When I visited with Rep. Noem and her staff, I shared with her that although we understand her position, we prefer her serving on the Ag Committee first and foremost.

The importance of the Ag Committee to our state should be self-explanatory. It sets the agenda and priorities for our nation’s agriculture industry. It’s a seat South Dakota has held since 1957. Every Farm Bill starts and stops with the Ag Committee and it should be a privilege to represent South Dakota where it matters the most.

At a time when commodity prices are declining and producers are faced with struggles not seen since the 1980’s, an absence from the Committee where the most important decisions are being made for Agriculture is the wrong move agriculture and the families that work hard every single day for South Dakota.

Rep. Noem has stated she wants to go where the work is. It’s our opinion at South Dakota Farmers Union that there is plenty of work to be done on the Ag Committee to fix the Dairy Margin Protection Program which was essentially broken from the outset of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The lack of adequate reimbursement continues to devastate family dairy operations. Unlike problems with the cotton industry which Ag Committee member Mike Conaway successfully lobbied his fellow members to fix last spring. Rep. Noem isn’t on the Agriculture Committee to stand up for South Dakota dairy producers and the problem remains.

We need help right now. She is not on the committee to represent us. These commodity prices are not just stressful for us as family farmers and ranchers, low prices impact Main Street South Dakota. Every day I visit with small business owners experiencing a slow business environment and worried about having to lay off employees.

Rep. Noem also said the Ways and Means Committee is critical to trade; however, since she’s been on Ways and Means, Congress repealed Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and continues to relax standards on imported beef into the country hurting consumers and producers alike.

Why hasn’t the power from the Ways and Means Committee translated into more influence for South Dakota? In my opinion, there are two approaches to Congress. You either climb the party ladder- hoping you can use your influence to benefit your state despite the strings that come attached to party power. Or you ensure your loyalty is to the people you represent. This means you have the freedom to work with everyone to get results for your constituents.

Whoever we elect this November, South Dakota needs a strong voice on the Ag Committee. That’s what this agriculture organization supports.