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SD lawmakers react to farm bill agreement

A newly proposed five-year farm bill has received largely positive reactions from South Dakota's congressional delegation. The new farm bill agreement, released by House and Senate negotiators Monday, is expected to be voted on today in the House...

A newly proposed five-year farm bill has received largely positive reactions from South Dakota’s congressional delegation.

The new farm bill agreement, released by House and Senate negotiators Monday, is expected to be voted on today in the House. If passed, the legislation will go to the Senate for a vote at a later date.

Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican and the state’s lone member of the House of Representatives, was a member of the committee that negotiated the agreement.

In a news release issued Monday, Noem said she was pleased by the agreement, which she said will “move us another step closer to the final passage of this muchanticipated and much-needed legislation.”

An October blizzard that devastated ranchers in western South Dakota gave a sense of urgency to the farm bill negotiations, Noem said.

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“The hundreds of producers who lost cattle may soon be offered relief and certainty going forward,” she said. “At the same time, we’ve been able to maintain a strong crop insurance program, make it easier for the Forest Service to combat the pine beetle crisis, protect our native grasslands, support research and offer billions of dollars in savings to taxpayers.”

Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, said in a news release issued Tuesday that he was satisfied with agreement, which he called “a reasonable compromise.”

Johnson said the proposed farm bill will help the state’s ranchers hit by the blizzard and give farmers long-term certainty and an effective safety net.

“The bipartisan farm bill … will be good for South Dakota farmers and ranchers, will continue to feed the hungry and will make meaningful reductions in the deficit,” he said.

Johnson also applauded the agreement for including language that would preserve the Country of Origin Labeling program, also known as COOL. The program requires retailers to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods, including many meat products and nuts, as well as fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.

However, Johnson said he was discouraged by some aspects of the agreement, including weakened payment limitations for the various farm commodity programs.

Sen. John Thune, a Republican, is concerned by the commodity title - which sets subsidy levels for various crops - in the proposed legislation, which he said includes a countercyclical program with target price increases of 8 to 88 percent for covered crops compared to the farm bill passed in 2008.

“The policies and programs in this commodity title are not what South Dakota farmers asked for or wanted,” he said in an email reply to The Daily Republic. “As I make my final decision, I will weigh the potential consequences of faulty commodity title policies that could result in trade complaints and retaliation on our farmers, ranchers and businesses, and cost overruns to U.S. taxpayers.”

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