Noem: 'I'm pushing for farm bill vote'Rep. Kristi Noem said Tuesday in Mitchell that when a proposed new farm bill comes to a vote in the House, she hopes there are enough votes to pass it.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Rep. Kristi Noem said Tuesday in Mitchell that when a proposed new farm bill comes to a vote in the House, she hopes there are enough votes to pass it.
She’s working to try to make that happen, she said.
The current farm bill is set to expire at the end of September. Congress is on a five-week recess, meaning there will be little time to pass the bill in the House and then reach a compromise with the version passed in the Senate before the deadline.
Still, Noem, a freshman Republican from rural Castlewood, said she feels there is a chance for success.
“There better be,” she said after a meeting on wind power tax credits at Mitchell Technical Institute.
“That’s what my battle has been,” Noem said. “I wholeheartedly hope there will be.”
She said while she wants to “push” House Republican leaders to bring it to a vote, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has
“We incentivize foreign suppliers more than we can do here at home,” she said. “And that’s what’s frustrating about our tax plan.”
Both South Dakota senators, Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican John Thune, favor extending the wind tax credit.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has come out against extending the tax credit. Noem said if he is elected, she may be able to “educate him” on the issue.
Matt Varilek, the Sioux Falls Democrat who is running against Noem for the state’s sole House seat, said he also hopes the tax credit continues.
“Actually I agree with Rep. Noem regarding the need to extend the Production Tax Credit,” Varilek said. “But we part ways when it comes to her support for cutting the Pell Grants that allow young people to study wind turbine maintenance, or cutting USDA funding for electricity transmission. We should invest in these areas to grow our rural economy, instead of giving more tax cuts for millionaires or subsidies to big oil companies.”
According to the American Wind Energy Association, South Dakota currently harvests enough wind energy to power 240,000 homes and is said he will only do so if he is assured of success.
“He has told me several times if we had 218 votes to pass it, he would bring it to the floor,” Noem said.
She is a freshman liaison to the House leadership.
Noem said Boehner, who has never voted for a farm bill in recent memory, said there could be serious “ramifications” if the bill is defeated on the House floor.
The $500 billion bill, which sets federal policy on myriad farm and food issues, including food stamps, has been stalled in the House for several weeks.
It passed the Senate earlier this summer and moved through the House Agriculture Committee in July, with Noem voting for it there.
But it has yet to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor, which has many people and businesses in the ag world concerned.
President Obama called on the House to pass the bill after a meeting on the
ranked fifth in the United States for total wind resources.
The media and citizens were kept out of the meeting for the first 20 minutes to allow Noem and the wind power representatives to have a frank discussion, according to MTI staffers. Noem said some of the companies did not want to discuss dollar figures in an open setting for fear of damaging their firms or creating a scare.
Earlier in the day, Noem toured Molded Fiber Glass, in Aberdeen, and met with MFG employees who manufacture components for wind turbines. The firm has 400 employees, several of whom are MTI Wind Turbine Technology program graduates. drought with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills on Tuesday afternoon.
“That’s the single best way to help rural communities both in the short term and in the long term,” Obama said.
Noem said she feels if a vote is held, some House members who are up in the air, and some who have said they oppose the bill, may vote for it.
“We won’t know until we have a vote,” she said.
Her Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Matt Varilek, has seized on the issue and asked repeatedly why Noem, as a high-profile freshman, can’t help get the bill on the floor for an up-or-down decision.
Noem said Varilek is playing politics.
“Absolutely,” she said. “He’s using every opportunity to turn this into a political game, and for me it’s all about getting a farm bill done. The farm bill’s too important to politicize.”
Varilek has pointed out Noem’s name was on an early version of a letter calling for the use of a discharge petition, a procedural step that would force a vote on the bill, but her name was not on the final version.
Noem said she has yet to decide where she stands on that tactic.
“That was a draft of a letter asking people to sign on to a discharge position,” she said. “I still may sign on to it. You circulate letters all the time out there.”
Varilek said Noem needs to push harder.
“Many of Congresswoman Noem’s colleagues are willing to stand up to Speaker Boehner and force a vote on the farm bill,” he said in an email response to The Daily Republic.
“Kristi signed a letter supporting this move, too, but then flip-flopped under pressure from her leadership team — apparently putting her political fortunes before the interests of our farmers and ranchers,” Varilek said.
“I strongly support the bipartisan effort to force a vote on the farm bill, and I urge Congresswoman Noem to do the same.”
Noem acknowledged she noticed a recent poll that showed her neck-and-neck with Varilek but doesn’t put a lot of stock in it.
The Nielson Brothers Polling survey showed her with 47 percent and Varilek at 46 percent.
“I’m not watching polls,” she said. “I learned that in my last race."
Her campaign efforts will pick up speed Aug. 22, she said, when she debates Varilek for the first time at the Dakotafest farm and ranch trade show in Mitchell.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.