Guest column: Thune plays politics with farm bill

Farm Forum

The U.S. Senate recently passed a modernized farm bill that improves support for South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers and reduces the national deficit. It has modern-sense reforms, including the elimination of antiquated direct payments, while also providing a strong safety net for our farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture organizations across South Dakota praised the Senate’s efforts. But Sen. John Thune voted against the farm bill. Why?

A year ago, I was planting soybeans and had the chance to listen live to the Senate Agriculture committee when they approved the pre-2012 election farm bill. At that time, Sen. Thune voted for the bill and he also supported that farm bill on the Senate floor. I am puzzled at this point why the senator voted no this time. In a news release, Thune said he opposed just two programs out of a nine-title piece of legislation with wide support from ag producers, ranchers and conservation groups. The two programs included price supports for peanut and rice farmers and food support for hungry families.

I don’t know about you, but I am fairly confident there are very few, if any, agricultural producers in South Dakota that produce peanuts and rice. So to make a statement against very small portions of the bill he opposed, Thune voted against strengthening crop insurance, extending disaster assistance for our livestock producers, eliminating direct payments and farm payments to millionaires, consolidating and streamlining programs, renewable energy efficiency grants in grain drying/handling along with solar and wind, rural development water and sewer systems for small towns, and important conservation practices — all this just because he disagreed with minor aspects of the broader bill that he supported just one year ago.

Back home in South Dakota, family farmers and ranchers work long hours every day to feed and fuel America. If your family is like mine, we have minor disagreements everyday about when to buy land, or when to plant or move cattle. But in the end, we always come to agreement because nothing gets done on our farm if we don’t compromise.

In refusing to compromise, Sen. Thune said the Senate missed an opportunity to improve the farm bill. I think Sen. Thune missed an opportunity to put South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers on a strong path forward.

Agriculture is South Dakota’s No. 1 industry. The farm bill is the most important piece of legislation for South Dakota. Our family farmers don’t let politics squash our hard work. Sen. John Thune shouldn’t let Washington politics stop his work for South Dakota, either.

South Dakota Senate Minority Leader Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, represents District 1.