With a new federal farm bill likely in gridlock until after the midterm elections, South Dakota's lone congressional representative says she is convinced the work will be done before she leaves her U.S. House post.
Kristi Noem's fourth term in Congress will be complete in January, regardless of how she fares in her Nov. 6 bid to be South Dakota's next governor. But she left no doubt that a new farm bill will be a top priority in her final few months in Washington, D.C.
Speaking Thursday in Mitchell, Noem pinned some of the blame on Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a chief Senate negotiator, who has pushed for urban farming and renewable energy measures in the farm bill.
"The hang-up before we left D.C. was that Senate Democrats wanted to pull money out of commodity programs," Noem told The Daily Republic. "Debbie Stabenow wanted to put money into urban farming and farmers markets and we just weren't willing to do that. A lot of our South Dakota farmers are struggling and we wanted to make sure a lot of those safety nets stayed in place, and to have those funds in commodity programs where we need them."
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Stabenow have been battling, as Conaway has been seeking to direct more funds toward commodity programs, such as cotton, that are geared toward Southern states.
President Donald Trump has also dinged Stabenow over the opposition to the farm bill, primarily for opposing work requirements for food-stamp recipients. But a wide majority of senators are against work requirements, meaning any version of that bill included won't pass.
"I don't think that's as much of a sticking point as the other commodity program is but I think when we get back - we have all intentions of getting back to D.C. after the election and getting it done," Noem said.
In the short term, many of the commodity programs used by South Dakota farmers are permanent, so Noem said they should be able to operate "business as usual."
Noem said if she were to win the governor's seat, there would be a unique balance between preparing in Pierre and completing congressional work in Washington.
"But there will be some pretty important votes that I intend to be in D.C. for at that time, so I intend to finish my job," she said. "I'm not a quitter. So I'll do my job and we'll work with this administration to do what's right for farmers in South Dakota."