POLITICS

Rep. Dusty Johnson's 2023 legislative wish list: the Farm Bill and tackling Chinese investment

Annie Todd
Sioux Falls Argus Leader

The new year always brings new chances for people to say yes. And Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-SD, who returns to Washington D.C. on Tuesday for a third term in the House of Representatives, has plenty of those upcoming opportunities.

U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson speaks after winning reelection on Tuesday evening, November 8, 2022, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls.

The lawmaker from Mitchell will be in the House majority for the first time in his federal career, and is now in a caucus leadership position. He is looking to become an integral drafter of the next iteration of the 2023 Farm Bill. And with a win after parts of his ‘Block the Tok Act’ passed into law recently, Johnson is looking at other opportunities to keep Chinese Communist Party influences at bay. 

Johnson spoke Friday with the Argus Leader about his upcoming legislative goals.

More:Chinese companies in the crosshairs as South Dakota officials call for supply chain reforms

While he acknowledged tight Republican control over the House, he’s looking forward to making sure South Dakota is given an opportunity “to make sure that our voices are heard.”

The Farm Bill and the environmental future

The Farm Bill is a five-year policy plan for agriculture. The last time the Farm Bill was debated was in 2018, and now it’s Johnson’s turn to take a crack at drafting the premier legislation on food and ag. 

U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson speaks with people in southern Sioux Falls while door knocking with Gov. Kristi Noem on Saturday, June 4.

While Johnnson is most likely to be chairman of one of the House Agriculture subcommittees, he’s still unsure what committee he’ll sit on.

That's because Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, faces a tough battle in his election to become Speaker of the House when the 118th Session of Congress gavels in on Tuesday with a small number of Republicans threatening to vote against him, leaving McCarthy shy of the 218-vote threshold for the position. 

More:Kevin McCarthy’s race for speaker risks upending the House of Representatives

Johnson, in his position as the recently elected chairman of the conservative Republican Main Street Caucus, signaled his support along with 70 other Republicans for McCarthy in a one-page letter on Friday, as first reported by Belt-Way magazine Politico

Still Johnson remains focused on the Farm Bill despite the leadership battle on Capitol Hill.

A majority of the bill is focused on nutrition assistance, Johnson said, but portions of the bill that impact farmers and ranchers also looks to the environment.

“The Farm Bill is one of the most hallmark pieces of environmental legislation for this country, and it's always been that way,” he said. “There are ways that I think we can make sure that we're tweaking conservation programs, which need to be voluntary and need to make sense for the producer, that allow them to do an even better job of caring for the land.”

More:Focus on Ag: New Farm Bill highlights key ag policy issues for 2023

Johnson added the 2023 bill will look to improving conservation practices on working lands. 

“I think you're gonna see a huge bipartisan push to do a better job there,” he said.

Curbing Chinese Influences

In the fall, Johnson introduced the Block the Tok Act, meant to ban the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok from government devices along with additional restrictions because of national security concerns.

Portions of the Block the Tok Act, specifically the ban of TikTok on federal devices, were signed into law Thursday as part of the omnibus bill that provided $1.7 trillion for government funding.

More:Dusty Johnson wants to ban TikTok on government devices in new bill

While Johnson voted against the funding bill, he was ecstatic the ban passed through. He attributed the passage to bipartisan work in the House and the Senate.

“Getting it passed was, frankly, a major accomplishment,” he said.

Gov. Kristi Noem also banned TikTok from state devices in late November, as did a slew of governors from North Dakota to Texas and Iowa.

More:Gov. Kristi Noem issues executive order blocking TikTok from state devices

Looking ahead, Johnson’s hoping to take the momentum from Block the Tok to getting his bill on prohibiting Chinese purchases of agricultural processing facilities in the United States.

“This is not just some sort of manufactured Boogeyman,” he said. “I mean, this is part of a planful and deliberate strategic strategy by the Chinese Communist Party to gain more control over the global food supply.”

Johnson pointed to the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, where a majority of European Union countries are beholden to Russia which supplies natural gas for citizens. Nearly 40% of Europe's natural gas came from Russia in 2021, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

“We are seeing a bipartisan awareness of the fact that we cannot let China have the same control over food that Europe allowed Russia to have over energy,” Johnson said.