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Matt Varilek

Noem to speak at 'Farm Bill Now' rally

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A rally urging Congress to pass a farm bill will be held in the nation's capital today, and a South Dakota official is one of the primary speakers. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., will join Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., in speaking out on the stalled farm bill.

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Noem will highlight the far-reaching impacts the bill has for the nation's economy, food supply and national security.

Noem hopes the rally can help push the bill to a vote in the House, according to her spokeswoman, Andrea McCarthy.

"Rep. Noem has been a leader in the bipartisan effort to bring a farm bill to the floor, and tomorrow she will continue the rallying cry," McCarthy said.

Noem wants to send a message that passing the bill isn't just important to rural farmers and ranchers, it's something that impacts all of America, McCarthy added. The rally is being organized by dozens of agriculturerelated organizations, including the two largest general farm groups in the nation, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. The South Dakota Farmers Union, which belongs to the NFU, has sent officials to Washington, D.C., to lobby for passage of the farm bill. They will attend today's rally and have scheduled meetings with South Dakota's congressional delegation. Noem refused to take part in a congressional debate this summer at the South Dakota State Fair that was sponsored by the South Dakota Farmers Union. She said it was biased in favor of Democrats. But Noem met with its representatives Tuesday in Washington, according to McCarthy. The farm bill has become a heated issue in her reelection campaign, with her Democratic challenger, Matt Varilek, saying Noem needs to work harder to get it passed.

Varilek said he is glad to see the rally is being held and the ag groups are working together.

"But it's ironic that Congresswoman Noem will be giving a speech at the rally," he said in an emailed statement to The Daily Republic. "I remember how she tried to downplay all her skipped Ag Committee meetings by saying 'She didn't go to Washington to talk' -- yet when it comes to the stalled farm bill, 'talk' is about all she's doing.

"I support a more proactive and constructive path forward: I support the bipartisan effort to force a vote on the farm bill, or else bringing up the Senate version of the farm bill, which earned broad bipartisan support including votes from Senators Johnson and Thune."

The bill passed the Senate 64-35 on June 21.

Another version passed in the House Agriculture Committee on July 12, with Noem among the members voting for it.

But it has not been scheduled for a vote in the full House, as Speaker John Boehner said he wants to only bring it to the floor when he knows there are enough votes for passage.

Noem is one of two freshmen liaisons to the GOP leadership.

Some members of both parties in the House oppose the current version of the bill in that chamber. Democrats feel the bill makes cuts in nutrition programs that are excessive, while Republicans feel the entire bill is too large.

The Congressional Budget Office reports that the bill will allocate the spending of about $969 billion over a decade.

Most of that, about 80 percent, is for nutrition and food programs, while the remainder covers crop insurance, farm support programs and other ag-related areas.

Johnson has no plans to attend, according to his spokesman, Perry Plumart, but he will monitor it

"The House should pass the Senate farm bill," Plumart said in an emailed statement to The Daily Republic. "The Senate has done its work on the farm bill. The House needs to act."

Thune, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, took the lead in helping to draft the farm bill, specifically by providing a framework for the Commodity Title that achieves the needed savings yet provides a safety net when needed, according to his spokeswoman, Rachel Knust.

"The senator works closely with S.D. agriculture groups and will continue to work with colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to get a farm bill done," Knust said in an emailed statement. "He applauds the efforts of Representative Noem and others for making an effort to raise public awareness of the need for Congress to pass a comprehensive farm bill." Most 2008 farm bill programs expire Sept. 30, although some expired a year ago. If a new, five-year bill cannot be passed, an extension of the 2008 farm bill is possible, according to South Dakota's congressional delegation. That would not extend the sections of the bill that expired in 2011. The rally is set to start at 10 a.m. Central time at the Union Square/Capitol Reflecting Pool. It will be broadcast live at www.FarmBillNow.com.

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