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Rounds optimistic about upcoming farm bill

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, left, gives remarks about farm bill while fellow U.S. Sen. John Thune, right, and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, not pictured, listen during a Wednesday forum at Dakotafest in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Bipartisan support could be the spark that leads to a farm bill replacement before it expires in September 2018.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds told The Daily Republic on Wednesday that he expects the farm bill to have a good chance at being approved by Congress by the fall of 2018.

"They want — Republicans and Democrats — want to see a good farm bill in place before it expires, that is helpful," Rounds said.

The current version of the farm bill expires in September 2018, just before the midterm elections, which would leave Congress in need of authorizing short-term replacements. The bill covers a variety of agriculture-related issues and is traditionally passed every five years.

While the next farm bill expires more than one year from now, Rounds said the early talks could be beneficial. In his eyes, a focus should be placed on the role conservation programs play in the ag industry, where the emphasis should be in the crop insurance program and other broader issues.

But working ahead could help Congress avoid a standstill similar to that seen in the health care reform debate.

"The fact that we're working on it and there's been attention paid to it this far in advance is a positive development," Rounds said.

And producers will have a valuable ally in Rounds' fellow South Dakota Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

"We agreed that with John's seniority it was really important that he stay on the Ag Committee, and I think that's paid dividends for South Dakota," Rounds said.

Though some South Dakotans have expressed issues with the differences in crop insurance payments in each county, Rounds has heard concerns focused on permanent easements established through conservation programs.

Rounds released a column in opposition to permanent conservation easements in 2015, questioning the impact perpetual easements have on the next generation of farmers who may want to pull the land back into production. And he maintains that belief, particularly due to the emotional response it's sparked in some landowners.

"I don't like permanent easements, and I would much prefer to see shorter-term easements," Rounds said. "And the reason for that is I think each generation should decide for themselves how the land should be developed based upon current conditions and technologies."

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