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NOEM: Not everyone farms, but everyone eats

In 1963, almost half of Congress represented rural areas. Today, less than 10 percent does. But while not everyone farms anymore, we all still eat. It's a fact I have to remind federal lawmakers of often -- and not only when we're debating food p...

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U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem

In 1963, almost half of Congress represented rural areas. Today, less than 10 percent does. But while not everyone farms anymore, we all still eat. It's a fact I have to remind federal lawmakers of often - and not only when we're debating food policy. Agriculture is critical to our national security too. The minute we don't grow our food, we become reliant on another country to feed us. That's when we are truly in peril. That's when they control us and our decision making.

The third week of March is set aside as National Agriculture Week, and as a lifelong farmer and rancher, I am incredibly proud to represent a state that celebrates our agricultural roots. That's something I've always fought to defend.

For instance, under the Obama administration, the Labor Department offered a proposal that could have banned kids from being hired to do certain farm work on their family's or relative's farms. I put pressure on the Department, and they rescinded the rule. When OSHA tried to regulate small family farms, I got the agency to reverse course. And when the EPA was looking to expand dust regulations, I authored legislation to stop them, and the rumored rules never advanced.

During this time, we also fought an uphill battle to finish a five-year farm bill in 2014. In the end, we produced legislation that equipped farmers and ranchers with a strong safety net and a meaningful livestock disaster program. I became the first South Dakotan in more than 20 years to serve on the House's farm bill negotiating team, and I was proud to sign my name to the final deal.

With the farm bill done, all attention turned toward tax cuts. Once again, I earned a spot on the negotiating team, filling one of just five House seats and serving as the only member with a background in production agriculture.

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After years of work, President Trump signed our legislation, which included a number of wins for agriculture. More specifically, the package offers a 20 percent small business tax deduction, which will help many farms and ranches. It also expands interest deductibility, which is critical for a highly-leveraged industry like agriculture; allows for immediate expensing, helping farmers upgrade their operations; doubles Death Tax exemption levels; preserves options for like-kind exchanges; and expands Section 179, allowing farmers to better manage depreciation. On top of that, producers - like all Americans - will benefit from lower tax rates, the doubling of the Child Tax Credit, and retirement and education benefits. The Standard Deduction was also doubled, meaning the first $24,000 a couple makes is tax free.

In the months ahead, we'll be working to pass the next farm bill. I've already introduced legislative language to improve commodity programs and reform the wetland determinations process. I've also introduced the Fair CRP Payments Act, which would ensure CRP rental payments accurately reflect the current cost of renting farm ground. And my DRY Act would permanently allow the hay harvested on certain CRP acres to be donated to farmers suffering from drought or fire.

Passing the next farm bill will likely be another uphill battle, given the declining number of rural representatives. Nonetheless, South Dakota farmers and ranchers continue to produce the food consumed in each of their states. I am incredibly proud to represent so many people who put in early mornings, take on tremendous financial risk, and live at the will of weather and market fluctuations - all to do what they love and keep our world fed. Happy National Agriculture Week!

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